Starting our Westward Travels – Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota: June 17 to July 8, 2016

Map 2

May and the first part of June seemed to be crazy busy for us due to several commitments, but mostly because we sold our Ventanna LE and purchased a new Newmar Dutch Star.  We finally got all our ducks in a row and pulled out of our neighborhood for our first real trip in our new motor home on June 17.  Even though we got a later start in the month than we had anticipated, I was so grateful for the way things worked out – the timing seemed to be perfect for each stop along the way.

FotorCreated Sycamore Campground

Our first stop was Chicago Land where we were on hand to help out with Caroline and Adam’s move the ‘burbs.  The closest campground we could find to their new house was Sycamore RV Resort .  It was actually an hour west from their suburb so we didn’t spend much time there. I’m sure we will be back for future visits when we might take time to enjoy their swimming and boating “beach”.


For our second destination, we swung down, around, and up to northern Michigan near Traverse City where we were lucky enough to sandwich in some days at our family cottage. Our nephew Alex had just left and my sister-in-law Gayla was scheduled to arrive later in the week. We parked the RV at a sweet little park called Torch Grove Campground right across the street from Torch Lake. It is run by two young brothers who graduated from Purdue University with engineering degrees. They own another larger park in Elk Rapids called Honcho Rest which is also very close to our cottage. Both places are extremely busy during the short summer season, so we really appreciated the willingness of the Torch Grove Campground crew to let us extend our stay for a couple more days then we had originally planned. Our little cabin was having well and septic issues that needed to be resolved, and I wanted to be on hand to see the process through to the end. When everything was all put back together again and working fine, we headed toward Wisconsin. (On the way, we couldn’t resist another short visit with Caroline and Adam because we were going right by there! This time however, we spent a couple nights in parking lots – one in a Sam’s club and another in a closed down Dominick’s Grocery Store.)

camp ground and cheese

We spent the Fourth of July at the Madison KOA which is really in De Forest, Wisconsin where our friend Lori and her family live.  The photo, above right, was our the view from the site we were parked in. Of course I had to check out the cheese shop! It turned out to be Ehlenbach’s Cheese Chalet  which had the most extensive offering of various cheeses that I have ever seen. I succumbed to buying several pounds which Roy and I are still enjoying!


Lori has a very demanding job which requires a lot of travel, so we were very happy the timing worked out and we could see her. She, her husband Al, and their two wonderful kids, keep camper trailer on a permanent spot in a campground with a lake. We joined them and their friends for a fabulous dinner of grilled steak followed by viewing a spectacular fireworks display back in town.


We left the Madison area the day after the 4th and high-tailed it upward and westward, straight across I94. We weren’t sure how far we would make it in a day, but decided to go for it. Roy drove across the entire state of Minnesota, through a thunderstorm in Minneapolis, and we ended up in Fergus Falls at 9:00 pm. It was still light when our friend Meg met us at her Uncle Steve’s utility barn on his property at Jewette Lake. What a gorgeous site! Up on the hill behind where we parked, is a huge garden and several bee hives. We had the option of plugging in to electricity and hooking up to water, but we decided to experiment and see how we could dry camp without it. Our fresh water tank didn’t register empty until we left, so we figure we can go without a hook up about three days, or even four without showers, if we had too. We did fine on the electricity issue as well; we used the inverter and would switch to the generator when we wanted to run the air conditioning.

Little Red Cottage

Meg’s mother, Elizabeth Sweder, is the author of a charming book, The Red Cottage: A MemoirIt recounts her experiences growing up in the 1940s and 50s, and much of the book centers around the family’s little red cottage on Jewett Lake right by where we were parked. I read the book about a year ago, so I was excited to see the cottage and meet Meg’s mom and dad.

Mr. and Mrs. Sweder built a large year-round house on the lake and we enjoyed a couple delicious dinners with them. Meg and her husband Wayne fried up a mess of Walleye for us and it was quite a treat! The next night Meg made a Minnesota rice casserole, so we felt we really got a taste of that area’s regional cooking.

One of the highlights of our visit was when Meg and I accompanied her mom to her writer’s group held in Fergus Falls. I got to hear her mom read a piece of writing she hopes to publish in the future, and listened to the constructive comments of other published writers.  Afterwards, we ran some errands and I got to experience how truly nice people in Minnesota are. I had left my credit card in the RV, and the grocery store took my out-of-state check, even without I.D.!

Very close by Fergus Falls is the Detroit Lakes area where people from neighboring North Dakota come to vacation. Minnesota is full of lakes which are very close in proximity to each other, and we saw several of them as we drove around the region.

Detroit and Melissa Lake

We wanted to see the area because a mutual friend spent childhood summers at a cottage on Lake Melissa which is in the bottom photo above.  The top left is Detroit Lake and across from it is a photo of the restaurant we ate at,  Zorbaz. On its menu, everything that began with a “s” was spelled with a “z”. The fare was Mexican as well as various pizzas that couldn’t get away from a tostado verve, even if a traditional pie was ordered.  According to local lore, Zorbaz was quite the wild place to hang out in the ’70s. Today their are 11 locations scattered all over the region. I gave the place a thumbs up!

Wayne took us on “The Big Bird Tour” and we drove through the little outlying towns in search of huge statues that celebrated native fowl life. Each little berg was just as cute as the next and we had a great time walking around.


Our first stop was Rothsay where Meg and Wayne fought off the 9,000 pound World’s Largest Prairie Chicken.


Next, we viewed the World’s Largest Pelican in Pelican Rapids . It was erected in 1957 and watches over a dam.


Wayne was surprised when we stumbled on The World’s Largest Turkey in Frazee. It was an unscheduled stop in our tour and we jumped right out to snap pics.


The World’s Largest Loon resides in Vergas. It’s Minnesota’s state bird so it’s a fitting tribute! Vanilla was impressed!


Roy had the time of his life when Wayne took him fishing both one evening and then the next morning. Wayne is an experienced fisherman, and he knew just where to go and what to do so that Roy was successful in catching more fish than he probably ever had!

We said goodbye to Meg, Wayne and her darling parents and started off for out next leg of our trip – North Dakota!

Just for fun, here are some links to some other Yates social media sites:

facebook small     inatagram (3)     pin (2)     brown hair (2)     twitter-icon     DSCN0506

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