RVing Through History – 80 Years of RV Travel!

October 2018 – While the most famous and beloved part of the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum in Elkhart, Indiana, is the fabulous display of antique trailers and motorhomes downstairs, the library upstairs is an equally outstanding (if less flashy) gem.

RV-MH Hall of Fame Elkhart Indiana-min

The RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum antique trailer display downstairs is fabulous.
But you’ve gotta check out the library upstairs too!

Every year notable people in the RV and Manufactured Housing industries are inducted into the Hall of Fame, and when you head upstairs in the museum you can find walls filled with plaques commemorating the work of each inductee.

RV-MH Hall of Fame Inductees Elkhart Indiana-min

The “Hall of Fame” dignitaries in the RV and Manufactured Home industries.

Around the bend there is a library that is open to all visitors. This sizeable room is filled with several rows of bookshelves that house all the periodicals and publications in the RV and Manufactured Housing industries since its inception.

There’s bit of whimsy in this library: the tops of the bookshelves are decorated with toy RVs!

RV-MH Hall of Fame Library Elkhart Indiana-min

The library upstairs is a wonderful place to kick back and learn a little history.

I find the history of RVing very interesting because it is a hobby and a lifestyle that has rolled through our nation’s history for over a century, a time that has included two world wars, economic booms and depressions, baby booms and boomlets, energy crises and more.

As a columnist for and avid reader of Trailer Life Magazine, I was especially eager to look at some of the earliest editions of its predecessor publication, Trailer Travel Magazine.

High up on a bookshelf I found a row of the earliest Trailer Travel magazines the museum owns, all nicely bound by year.

Woodall's Trailer Travel Magazine 1930s and 1940s issues RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Library Elkhart Indiana-min

Bound volumes of Trailer Travel Magazine from the 1930s to the 1960s

I randomly took one volume down and flipped it open to the January 1959 issue. The little girl in diapers could have been an older sister of mine or a younger sister of Mark’s. How fun!

Woodall's Trailer Travel Magazine Cover January 1959 RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum-min

Trailer Travel Magazine – January 1959 – 25 cents an issue

Flipping the magazine open to a random page, I found a fantastic two page advertisement for Airstream trailers called “Land Yachting.” The accompanying photo showed a motor yacht tied up at a dock where an Airstream was parked. Very cool!

Land Yachting Woodall's Trailer Travel Magazine Cover January 1959 RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum-min

Awesome!

Thumbing through a little more, I found an article about a fellow who loved the trailer lifestyle so much he had built a custom home that he could back his trailer into. While the house had a full kitchen, living room, bedrooms and bathrooms, he could also use all of the trailers amenities when it was parked inside the house!

This fellow had been involved in the RV industry for a long time, towing trailers since 1924, and he confessed that he and his wife preferred the bedroom in the trailer to any of the bedrooms in the house!

Have Trailer Will Travel Woodall's Trailer Travel Magazine Cover January 1959 RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum-min

This guy liked to back his trailer right into his custom home and use it inside the house!

I picked up the volume for the 1937 issues of Trailer Travel (the magazine started in 1935 but I didn’t see that volume there).

The January 1937 issue cost just 15 cents and it featured a photo of a palm tree lined street on the cover and the promise of an article about “Trailing Through the Land of Thrills” inside.

Trailer Travel Magazine 1937 Cover photo RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

Trailer Travel Magazine – January 1937 – 15 cents an issue

Like today’s Trailer Life, the magazine was filled with advertisements. Of course, as with any media publication, including this website, the ads make it possible to pay the bills. But I loved each and every one of the ads because they said so much about the life and times and interest and concerns of the RV industry back in 1937.

We had seen several Covered Wagon trailers in the museum downstairs, and here was an ad for the 1937 model. By the looks of the lady in her evening gown, this was a trailer for the well-to-do. Boasting “superb perfection of design” and “eight years of quality trailer building,” this rolling home would set you back $1,295.

Trailer Travel Magazine 1937 Covered Wagon Ad RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

At $1,295, this trailer must have been quite a luxury during the Great Depression.

In 1937 America was still deep in the throes of the Great Depression, and $1,295 was an exorbitant amount of money. No wonder the lady was in such an elegant gown as she prepared for a night on the town. She was a woman of means who had somehow escaped the worst of the economic woes that the Great Depression wrought.

Trailer Travel Magazine 1937 Silver Dome Ad RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

The Silver Dome had a caster type wheel under the hitch pin.

It struck me that owning a trailer was not something that was probably possible for most families, as many families didn’t have a car in 1937. “Trailerites,” as the early RVers were called, must have been a fairly exclusive crowd, especially when the country was in the grip of the Great Depression.

1937 Trailer Travel Magazine Club Car Ad RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

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1937 Trailer Travel Magazine Royal Coach Ad RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

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But there were trailer builders out there who were aiming at a more budget oriented crowd. The 17′ Indian “Scout” started at a mere $395, just 1/3 of the cost of that fancy 22′ Covered Wagon model.

1937 Trailer Travel Magazine RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN Indian Scout Trailer Ad-min

A smaller, simpler trailer for just $395.

Another big surprise was that many of the trailers in 1937 (model year 1938) offered most of the household comforts we have built into our trailers today, from water tanks to kitchen stoves to insulation and more.

One ad for the Bender Travel Mansion boasted air conditioning and heat which they said marked “a new era in trailer life!”

Not only did the 1937 Bender Travel Mansion feature climate control, it also had a hot and cold water shower, a flush toilet and an automatic electric and marine water system. The foundation was the Bender Tandem Axle and Spring suspension system, and the interior was walnut.

All this for a base price of just $447.

Trailer Travel Magazine 1937 Bender Travel Mansion Ad RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

Air conditioning, heat, hot and cold shower and flush toilet — in 1937!

I was also surprised that most trailer ads stressed that their units were all steel construction. This didn’t mean just the frame, as it does today. The studs and rafters were welded steel too.

When we had looked at the units in the museum downstairs, Mark had noted that even the aluminum sided models of the early years had tack welds rather than rivets.

These early trailers were solidly built and heavy!

Trailer Travel Magazine 1937 Hayes Ad RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

These trailers were super rugged and all steel.

The 1938 Hayes trailer featured not only a complete steel cage — chassis, frame, sides, roof were all “electric welded into one rigid piece” — but it also had five kinds of insulating materials.

One insulating material mentioned was “Reflect-O-Cel aluminum air cell insulation” used in the roof.

This sounded a lot like our modern product Reflectix that many RVers use to block heat and cold in their RV windows. It also sounded a little like the “radiant barrier” that trailer manufacturers use today (although some radiant barriers we saw on factory tours resembled aluminum foil while others were a foil product that had some kind padding).

1937 Trailer Travel Magazine 1938 Hayes Trailer Ad RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

A steel cage frame and 5 materials for insulation including “Reflect-O-Cel.”

I was intrigued that while today there are many industry publications for people who work in the RV industry and a few magazines geared towards consumers who buy RVs, the early Trailer Travel magazine had a very wide audience that included not only the manufacturers but the “trailerites” who bought them, the campground and trailer park owners who were hosting them and the dealerships who were selling the manufacturers’ products.

So, there were ads for everything from Coleman stoves to trailer windows, a new folding trailer step, Foreman trailer axles, Bendix power brakes and a Red Top Gas-O-Lectric AC/DC Power Plant to give the trailer electricity when it was parked off the grid.

Coleman Stove Ad 1937 Trailer Travel Magazine RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

1937 Coleman stoves.

Trailer Window Ad 1937 Trailer Travel Magazine RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

Trailer windows… not very different from today.

Folding Trailer Step Ad 1937 Trailer Travel Magazine RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

A fold-out step!

Foreman Trailer Axles Ad 1937 Trailer Travel Magazine RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

Trailer axles.

Bendix Trailer Brakes Ad Foreman Trailer Axles Ad 1937 Trailer Travel Magazine RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

Bendix Power Brakes save your car’s brakes…same thing today!

Red Top Gas-O-Lectric Power Plant Ad Foreman Trailer Axles Ad 1937 Trailer Travel Magazine RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

AC and DC power for the trailer when it’s not plugged in.

I was also fascinated to see that companies had emerged to rent out trailers to folks on vacation. Western Trailways Service offered trailers for $5 a day for one or two people or $6.50 for three or four people. Why spend $400 or more buying a trailer when you could rent one for a weeklong honeymoon for just $35?

1937 Trailer Travel Magazine Ad RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN Western Trailways Rental Plan-min

Why not rent a trailer for a week before going all in and buying one?

Just as fascinating, or perhaps even more so, was reading the articles about where people took their trailers in 1937. An ad for Covered Wagon explaining their sales method of selling a base model plus options showed a young couple dressed up for camping in nature.

It was a different era!

Covered Wagon Pacemaker Trailer Ad 1937 Trailer Travel Magazine RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

Camping in style.

One photo showed several riders on horseback and a trailer parked on the side of a dirt road, a glimpse of the transition still taking place in the 1930s in the most rural areas from horse to motorized travel.

Trailer and horseback riders Durango Colorado Foreman Trailer Axles Ad 1937 Trailer Travel Magazine RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

Old and new modes of transportation on the dirt road to Durango Colorado

An article entitled, “Yellowstone Parking – A Trailer Travel Thrill!” described a trailer trip to Yellowstone National Park.

Some things have changed quite a bit since 1937. A photo showed a black bear eyeing up a car towing a trailer. In those days feeding the bears was a popular activity at Yellowstone. Fortunately, from what I understand, grizzlies were extremely rare in the Park back then since they were not a protected species.

Trailer driving past Bear in Yellowstone National Park 1937 Trailer Travel Magazine RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

It was common practice to feed the bears at Yellowstone back in 1937

But the fishing on Fire Hole River (“Fire Hole” was two words in those days) seems like it was much the same, excellent both then and now.

Fire Hole River with trailer at Yellowstone National Park 1937 Trailer Travel Magazine RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

Fire Hole River in Yellowstone.

And photography was as important to Yellowstone visitors in 1937 as it is to all of us today.

Photography with trailer 1937 Trailer Travel Magazine RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

A “trailerite” family enjoys a meal together in their campsite while dad snaps a pic.

As I perused the January 1937 issue, I discovered that the feature article, “Trailing Through the Land of Thrills,” was all about taking your trailer on a fabulous adventure down to Mexico City.

The new 1,000 mile long international highway had been completed in July, 1936, and Americans were taking their cars and trailers down the highway and loving it.

Interestingly, that was not the only travel destination feature article about going to Mexico in 1937. In the August issue of Trailer Travel Magazine there was an article about taking your trailer down to the fabulous tropical destination of Acapulco!

Mark and I spent some time in Acapulco on our sailboat, and although Acapulco is sadly very dangerous in many areas today, it was easy to see how extraordinarily charming it must have been years ago.

When we anchored there we heard whales singing in the water around our hull at night, and we saw a seahorse attached to our anchor chain when we hauled the anchor up. The water just outside the populated area was the bluest blue we’d ever seen, and at night Acapulco Bay looked like a bowl full of diamonds as all the homes on the steep hills around the bay lit up.

I can only imagine how exotic it would have been to take a trailer down to Acapulco for a tropical winter vacation in 1937.

Acapulco Mexico Town Beach

Acapulco’s town beach

Another fascinating article was entitled, “What is Happening to the Trailer Industry?”

Apparently for the first half of 1937 trailers flew off the shelves, so the manufacturers ratcheted production up to high gear. By May, however, trailers had stopped moving and there were surpluses everywhere.

The article pondered whether the sudden slowdown was because President Roosevelt had tampered with the Supreme Court as he tried to push through his New Deal legislation. Or perhaps the Housing Act of 1937 (Wagner Act) which provided government funding for public housing agencies to assist low income families was the cultprit.

The writer also mused that the problem might be plain old competition. He noted that for every one trailer being built by a manufacturer in 1937, four were being built at home. I guess in 1937 “trailerites” were looking for affordable trailers that were customized to their own needs and preferences.

Boy, does that sound familiar!

Trailer Travel Magazine September 1937 What is Happening to the Trailer Industry?

The RV industry has always been cyclical,
but even so, a sudden downturn in 1937 prompted some soul searching.

On the positive side, another article in the January 1937 issue discussed how Hollywood was becoming more and more enamored of using trailers on movie sets.

Downstairs in the museum of antique trailers we’d seen a fabulous House Car on display that belonged to Mae West. However, it wasn’t until the 1930s that the stars in Hollywood routinely began to use luxury trailers as mobile dressing rooms and places to relax on set.

One article entitled “Trailer Trails to Health: Water” discussed the importance of finding good drinking water in your travels. The article opened with a cute reference to Samuel Coleridge’s poem in which the Ancient Mariner lamented, “Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.”

Today we all rely on bottled water that is in abundant supply everywhere, but in 1937 the only choices were city water, which was filtered, chlorinated if necessary, and approved by the State Department of Health, and well water or spring water which was a gamble.

“Trailerites” were advised to seek out city water supplies and to use spring or well water only if it had a certificate on it from the State Board of Health.

Trailer Travel magazine 1937 Trailer Trails to Health - Water-min

Finding safe drinking water was a big concern for “trailerites” in 1937

I grabbed the Trailer Travel volume for 1940 and flipped through a few issues.

The price of the magazine had dropped from 15 cents in 1937 to 10 cents in 1940, and it was now called Automobile & Trailer Travel Magazine.

Automobile and Trailer Travel Magazine 1940-min

Automobile & Trailer Travel Magazine – August 1940 – Now 10 cents an issue!

What a neat surprise it was when I saw an ad for a 4.8 cubic foot electric refrigerator!

This RV fridge was a combination electric refrigerator and ice box. When you took your trailer off grid, rather than relying on propane, which came later, you could pack 50 lbs. of ice in the ice box and still enjoy a cold beer.

In 1940 there were still rural folks who didn’t have running water or electricity, but the finest trailers had electric refrigeration!

Marvel Trailer 4.8 cubic foot Ice and Electric refrigerator ad from 1940 Trailer Travel Magazine-min

A 4.8 cubic foot electric fridge with a big ice box for off-grid camping.

The October 1940 issue featured an article, “How To Use Your Camera,” that explained how to take advantage of different film speeds. Of course, film cameras have gone the way of the ice box!

Trailer Travel magazine 1940 How to Use Your Camera-min

Photography and travel have always gone hand-in-hand, whether the camera is film or digital.

I jumped ahead a few shelves and pulled out the March 1977 issue. The magazine was now called Woodall’s Trailer & RV Travel, and the cover showed a pop-top van as one of the best new designs of the year.

Water was still covered in this issue in 1977, but the focus in this particular article was on how the RV’s water system works and what to do when it doesn’t.

March 1977 Woodall's Trailer and RV Travel Magazine RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

Woodall’s Trailer & RV Travel – March 1977

My jaw just about hit the floor, however, when I opened another issue from 1977 and discovered that finding safe drinking water was just as big a concern in 1977 as it had been 40 years prior in 1937.

Not only did the article, “The Traveler’s Guide to Water,” warn RVers not to trust random wells and springs for drinking water, but it also opened with the same quote from Coleridge’s poem The Ancient Mariner: “Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.”

How funny.

Ironically, when I wrote an article for Cruising World Magazine a few years ago about our sailboat’s water desalination system that converted ocean water to drinking water, the editors titled it, “Water, water everywhere…”

Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner is timeless!

Trailer Travel magazine 1977 The Traveler's Guide to Water-min

Finding safe drinking water was still a big concern in 1977, some 40 years later!

In 1977 there was also a lot of concern about the safety of taking an RV into Mexico. Several articles discussed rising crime in Mexico, but the writers expressed hope that it was a temporary problem that might abate in the near future.

John and the motorhome

Camping on the beach in Mexico!

When we were in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on our sailboat, we were very fortunate to meet a young German man who had been raised in a Class C motorhome by his adventurous parents as they traveled all over North America. While showing us his photo albums of family photos, he described camping on the beach in Mexico as a kid in the 1980s. How fun!

At one point, his dad had gotten the clever idea to ask a train conductor heading through Copper Canyon if they could put their motorhome on one of the empty flatbed train cars. Soon, a whole generation of adventurous RVers were riding flatbed cars on that train and enjoying a trip of a lifetime.

Blog posts about meeting this special fellow here and here.

Another big topic of concern in Woodall’s Trailer & RV Travel in the late 1970’s was the future of the Alaskan wilderness. The public land debate goes back over a century and is very complex, but the Alaska Pipeline spawned much debate in the late 1970s, and Woodall’s Trailer and RV Travel weighed in with their thoughts.

Who Gets the Alaskan Wilderness 1977 Trailer Travel Magazine RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

Public land debates were as hot in 1977 as they are today.

Alaskan Wilderness quote 1977 Trailer Travel Magazine RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

Interesting to look back on this comment 40 years later.

By the 1970s, Woodall’s Trailer and RV Travel Magazine was published solely for RVers — the consumer side of the RV industry — and was no longer a trade magazine for the RV industry itself. But one amusing business-oriented article headline caught my eye: “Renting Your RV – It Could Put 10 Grand in your pocket.”

There has been an effort in recent years to put potential RV renters together with people who’d like to make a little side income from renting out there RV. I had no idea that this business model dated back 40 years, but there it was in 1977!!

Renting Your RV 1977 Trailer Travel Magazine RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

Renting your RV is not a new concept. Heck, folks were putting 10 grand in their pockets doing it in 1977!

I had a hard time leaving the RV/MH Hall of Fame Library and could easily have stayed a few more hours. But the volunteer at the front desk downstairs came up to me at closing time and told me very kindly that she was going to shut off the lights in a few minutes!

She let me hunt down one last magazine from August 2010, an issue of Good Sam Club’s Highways Magazine. The cover of this magazine featured our little buggy in a streamside setting. She smiled as I snapped a photo of the cover and told her that the very same trailer was parked out in their parking lot right now.

Looking at the Highways Magazine cover more closely a little later, I noticed that besides my article about Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, there were articles on water filtration and brakes and there was even a photo contest.

So many themes in RVing have stayed the same, all the way from 1937 to now.

August 2010 Highways Magazine Cover 1977 Trailer Travel Magazine RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart IN-min

Water, brakes and photography were all in this issue too!

If you have a chance to visit the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum, allow a little extra time to sit in one of the comfy chairs upstairs in the library and thumb through a few RVing magazines of yesteryear. It is a heartwarming journey.

You can subscribe to the modern day Trailer Life Magazine here and see our photos and stories in its pages almost every month!

More info about the RV/MH Hall of Fame Museum and Library:

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RV/MH Hall of Fame + Elkhart (RV Heart) Indiana

October 2018 – The region around Elkhart, Goshen and Shipshewana in the northern part of Indiana is the heart of the RV industry, and a trip there is a must for everyone who loves RVing. One of the coolest things to see is the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum (“MH stands for Manufactured Housing, not “Motor Home”).

RV-MH Hall of Fame tells RV History about RVing industry in Elkhart Indiana

The RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum is at the heart of the RV industry’s heart in Elkhart Indiana

We visited Elkhart, Indiana, back in 2009. That visit was during the very dark days of the recession, and the entire RV industry was in total free fall as it plunged to miserable depths in a very steep nose dive. RV manufacturers that had been around for as long as forty or fifty years were dropping like flies.

At that point, unfortunately, darker days were still to come. It was hard to imagine when or how the economy, especially the RV manufacturing industry, would ever recover.

So, what a marvelous shock it was this year to arrive in Elkhart and find the place absolutely humming with activity. The economic rocketship ride has taken Elkhart and the RV industry by storm, and there were help wanted signs in front of every manufacturing plant and on every street corner.

Elkhart Indiana is hiring in economic boom-min

There were jobs aplenty in Elkhart, Indiana

Hiring signs in Elkhart Indiana as economy booms-min

We saw hiring signs in front of every business.

When the RV manufacturers are running at full tilt, everything around them takes off at a sprint too.

There were RV transport trucks towing sparkling new trailers everywhere we turned. Each transporter was embarking on a trip to haul the attached trailer to a dealership in some far corner of the country, and every RV manufacturer’s lot was filled with rows and rows of rigs waiting their turn to be shipped out.

Jobs jobs jobs and hiring in Elkhart indiana-min

RV transporters were busy busy busy!

Now hiring in Elkhart Indiana during economic recovery-min

Warehouse – Yes! Sewers, not so much.

The mood was almost giddy, and there were help wanted signs at all the supermarkets, restaurants and fast food joints. I don’t think there was a company anywhere that was suffering. One coffee company even cracked a joke about needing new hires right on their sign.

Of course we are hiring who is not-min

Of course… Who isn’t??

Wages were ticking upwards too. One small manufacturer of specialty trailers told us the starting wage for assembly line workers at their plant — once they’ve proven themselves for a month — is $27 per hour. Wow!!

But besides the exuberantly happy mood we felt around town, we were having a blast just being right smack in the heart of the RV industry where something like 90% of the RV-related corporations have their headquarters. Every direction we looked we saw a familiar brand of something.

Lippert Components freight truck in Elkhart Indiana-min

Lippert Components… we have a lot of their stuff… Hey, is that a help wanted ad on their truck?!

Keystone Drive Elkhart Indiana-min

You can’t get far from the RV industry here.

The manufacturing plants go on for miles, and all the big corporations have many many plants.

LCI Plant 85 Elkhart Indiana-min

The various plants for the big manufacturers go on for miles and miles.

R-Pod Plant 37 Elkhart Indiana heart of RV industry-min

R-Pod too.

The companies and the residents are all very much tied in with each other, so it was no surprise to see familiar names on the Adopt-A-Highway signs too.

Adopt-a-Highway Lippert Components Inc Elkhart Indiana-min

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XLR toy hauler plant Elkhart Indiana RV industry-min

Drive a block and see another familiar manufacturer’s plant!

XLR Thunderbolt toy haulers lined up in Elkhart Indiana RV plant-min

Ready for outdoor adventure.

Every RV manufacturer offers factory tours of some kind, and we made it a point to do quite a few. But just driving around Elkhart, Goshen, Shipshewana, Middlebury and Nappannee, it was amazing to discover how enormous this industry is and how vast its many manufacturing plants are.

Keystone RV Company Headquarters Goshen Indiana-min

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Of course, lots of other kinds of vehicles are made in the Elkhart area too. How cool to see a zillion shuttle buses hot off the assembly line out gleaming in the sun.

Shuttle buses lined up in Elkhart Indiana-min

This region makes more than just RVs.

Much of this area is Amish country, and every so often we would come across signs letting us know their horses and buggies were in the area. How fun to see the horse tie-ups at the supermarkets and to see the horses and buggies waiting patiently outside various businesses. We saw the Amish working in the plants too.

Goshen and Shipshewana Indiana are Amish country-min

Something old and something new – Rooftop solar panels, horses and buggies and electronic controls.

It was also the peak of fall. At a cider mill the pumpkins were stacked high and the cider was selling fast (yum!).

Pumpkin display Elkhart Indiana-min

Fall was in the air and the cider was delicious!

Even though we had visited the RV/MH Hall of Fame Museum the last time we were here back in 2009, we wanted to see it again this time. It is unusual for an industry to celebrate itself and its products with so fabulous a showcase in such an impressive building.

Don’t miss it if you drive by on I-90 (you can see it from the highway!).

RV-MH Hall of Fame Museum-min

Buddy couldn’t wait to visit the museum!

Out in front of RV/MH Hall of Fame Museum there’s a statue of a star spangled elk. He’s decorated with the painting of an RV, and very close to his heart is the RV’s front door. Perfect!

The RV industry is the heart of Elkhart Indiana-min

The heart of Elkhart is the RV industry, and the heart of the RV industry is Elkhart.

There is a lot to see inside the museum, but the coolest attraction is the Go RVing Hall which houses an incredible collection of vintage RVs.

Entering the GoRVing Hall in RV-MH Hall of Fame Museum-min

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The RVs are lined up along a road that is painted on the floor, and this road winds all around a huge room and even goes over a small bridge. At the beginning of the road the RVs are arrayed in more-or-less chronological order, so you can see how the RV industry developed as you move from one rig to the next.

One of the first rigs is a 1913 Ford Model T towing a 1913 Earl Trailer.

1913 Model T Ford and Earl Travel Trailer-min

1913 Model T Ford towing an Earl Travel Trailer

Another early rig was a “Collapsible Automobile Camping Outfit” that could be attached or detached from any roadster.

1916 Telescoping camping unit on a roadster at RV:MH Hall of Fame and Museum Elkhart Indiana

1916 Telescoping camping unit on a roadster

The museum shows a page from the May 1916 issue of Popular Mechanics Magazine that has photos of this inventive contraption in action. Note that they’d already figured out how to get hot water for showers… over a century ago!

Popular Mechanics May 1916 Telescoping roadster attachment

Popular Mechanics Magazine, May 1916

The early days of RVing was a time of enormous creativity as people tried building all kinds of crazy contraptions to get themselves up off the ground while camping and have a little storage space for clothes and food as well.

Some were simple popup (folding) tent trailers that were obvious precursors to today’s popups. Others were very high end and fancy “house cars” that were early versions of motorhomes for the wealthy.

1931 Model AA Ford House Car-min

1931 Model AA Ford House Car

Some of those early companies were wildly successful. Covered Wagon was one of the most successful. At their peak they turned out 40-50 trailers every day.

World War II put a quick end to that success, however, and by the end of the war the RV industry had virtually collapsed. Almost every manufacturer went out of business, including Covered Wagon.

1935 Covered Wagon Travel Trailer-min

1935 Covered Wagon Travel Trailer

Interior 1935 Covered Wagon Travel Trailer-min

Interior of the 1935 Covered Wagon Travel Trailer

1937 Hunt Housecar-min

The very cool 1937 Hunt Housecar

That meteoric rise and sudden crash of the RV industry seemed eerily familiar to what we saw happen after 2008, especially in the trailer industry.

All of the wonderful trailer manufacturers that had built good quality, solid trailers for a modest price for decades up until 2008 were gone by 2015. The rest consolidated under two main conglomerates. At the same time, all the suppliers save a few also consolidated under a single conglomerate.

Sadly, this has left the current trailer customer with a million different models of trailers to choose from that are all extremely similar except for the graphics and the name on the outside of the trailer.

But so go the wheels of invention and maturity in every industry. The great fun of the RV/MH Hall of Fame Museum is seeing things like the first trailer that Fleetwood built in 1950.

1950 Fleetwood Sporter travel trailer first Fleetwood built-min

The 1950 Fleetwood Sporter travel trailer was the first Fleetwood RV ever built

Interior 1950 Fleetwood Sporter travel trailer first Fleetwood built-min

Interior of the 1950 Fleetwood Sporter travel trailer

And an elegant trailer by Yellowstone Trailer built in 1954.

1954 Yellowstone Travel Trailer-min

1954 Yellowstone Travel Trailer

Early trailers had all kinds of interesting shapes. The 1967 FAN trailer had a flip tail at the back end.

1967 FAN Luxury Liner travel trailer RV-MH Hall of Fame Museum Elkhart Indiana-min

1967 FAN Luxury Liner travel trailer

Underneath the trailer, tucked between the two wheels, was an early version of MORryde’s rubber equalizer system. When we toured the MORryde plant we learned that they had spray painted the equalizer on this trailer silver to match the trailer and to make sure people could see it.

1967 FAN Luxury Liner MORryde equalizer early version-min

One of the first MORryde equalizers on a 1967 FAN Luxury Liner travel trailer.

We savored every minute in the museum, and I went back again a second time for more.

Mark loved the early mechanical systems — imagine a regular shower head screwed onto the outside of your trailer or an air-hose system to pump air into the water tank to pressurize it — and I loved imagining people of an earlier era taking these fun and crazy travel pods out to the National Parks to breathe the fresh air and see the wonders there.

I’ll have more for you from this trip to the RV/MH Hall of Fame Museum. In the meantime you can see more cool antique RVs in our 2009 blog post about the museum. They’ve moved a few rigs around, but they are all still there.

Most important, if you are planning a trip that will take you anywhere near Elkhart, Indiana, check your favorite RV manufacturer’s website for their factory tour schedule, and be sure to visit to this special museum.

A walk back in time at RV-MH Hall of Fame Museum Elkhart Indiana-min

A walk back in time at the RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum

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Halloween Camping – RV Witches & Goblins at Michigan State Parks!

October 2018 – After enjoying several weeks of waterfalls and fall foliage in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and a delightful day on Mackinac Island, we stopped to camp at Metamora-Hadley Recreation Area in the Lower Peninsula. Despite cold rain and drizzle in mid-October, we were shocked to see that the campground was packed to the gills when we arrived on a Sunday morning. It turned out that the State Park campgrounds in Michigan celebrate Halloween each weekend in late September and October, and the festivities were in full swing.

RV halloween camping-min

Ghouls and goblins pose for a selfie in front of their trailer home!

Families were shivering in the rain and huddled around the campfires, but nothing could dampen their spirits as they showed off their wild Halloween campsite decorations.

Campsite decorate for Halloween-min

Grrrrr….Happy Halloween!

Camping Halloween travel trailer RV with pumpkin decoration-min

Smile for the camera!

After we quickly set up camp, we walked around the campground loops and were floored by how elaborate the campsite decorations were.

Campground Halloween decorations-min

Some folks set up their displays under easy-up shelters!

RV Campsite decorate for Halloween-min

Some were arranged under the fifth wheel overhang too.

Families had gone all out with witches riding broomsticks, ghosts twisting in the wind, pumpkins grinning wickedly and skeletons perched on everything.

Fifth wheel RV Halloween decorations-min

Witches and skeletons hang out on a camper’s fifth wheel.

Motorhome campsite with Halloween decorations-min

A skeleton couple took over the picnic table at this motorhome’s campsite.

The night before we got there, all of the displays had been lit up. There were power cords running every this way and that between the campsites and the displays. But even in the bitter morning air without any glow-in-the-dark spookiness, we still caught Halloween fever as we walked the campground loops and admired the decorations.

RV camper with Halloween pumpkins-min

One RV was sitting in a pumpkin patch.

Pumpkin spilling its guts at Halloween-min

This pumpkin partied too much last night and got sick.

Every Saturday night in September/October at all the Michigan State Park campgrounds — and in many other midwest campgrounds too — the kids get dressed up in Halloween costumes and go from campsite door to campsite door all around the campground trick-or-treating.

Camping Halloween travel trailer RV with pumpkin decoration-min

An evil looking Mickey Mouse greets trick-or-treaters at the back door of an RV.

Home Sweet Haunted Home RV door-min

What evil lurks inside??

I don’t know who loves it more, the kids or the parents and grandparents. One older fellow told us he went Halloween camping every year for 15 or so years as he raised his kids (the youngest was now 24!), but he still comes out because it is so much fun to see the kids in their costumes and give out candy.

Ghosts pumpkins skeletons camping at an RV campground-min

A ghost’s eyes lit up red as we go by.

Travel trailer RV with Halloween ghost-min

Spooky!

He kinda laughed as he told me that if you time it right, you can hit all six State Park campgrounds in this area from late September through October and experience the fun over and over in different settings!

Popup tent trailer at Halloween-min

Dead babies… is that Alice Cooper‘s popup tent trailer?

Halloween cemetery at an RV campsite-min

A trailer’s front yard turned into a graveyard.

Every campsite had decorations, and some were very complex. Pumpkins and ghosts were popular themes, but it was the carefully laid out headstones in the Halloween graveyards that caught our attention!

Fifth wheel RV campsite with Halloween cemetery-min

Gravestones and skulls, a good Halloween combo!

Graveyard campground campsite Halloween decorations-min

Fresh graves – keep out! Folks who come to this trailer wind up under headstones!

The front end of a travel trailer is an ideal place to set a few ornaments, and sure enough we found skeletons and ghosts and pumpkins aplenty.

Trailer propane bottle with Halloween trick-or-treat decorations-min

The trailer’s hitch and propane tanks make good perches for ghoulish things.

Ghosts and pumpkins with RV at campground on Halloween-min

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There were lots of skeletons hanging around too.

Pumpkins and skeletons on a travel trailer RV-min

Skeletons hanging around everywhere!

Campground campsite Halloween decorations-min

A skeleton hangs in a tree.

Other skeletons sat in kayaks and cackled as they paddled and fished alongside their toy hauler.

Skeletons in kayaks Halloween Toy hauler campsite decorations-min

Skeletons laugh ghoulishly as they fish from their kayaks.

Halloween skeleton in kayak at toy hauler RV campsite-min

Catch of the day – a fish skeleton!

One campsite had a big skeleton of an animal standing out in front of a cute retro trailer.

Retro trailer camper and horse skeleton at Halloween-min

What kind of creature is this?

Upon closer inspection we realized it was the skeleton of a horse pulling a carriage. Inside the carriage were the skeletons of a bride and groom.

Campground RV campsite with retro trailer and skeleton horse and buggy-min

A horse skeleton pulling a buggy with a bride and groom skeleton inside.

Another campsite featured a skeleton bride and groom getting married in the grass under a trellis.

Halloween skeleton wedding camping in a travel trailer-min

Newlywed skeletons.

The bodies of a pair of old retired skeletons had given up the ghost. All that remained was their skulls which peered out of the front windshield of a motorhome.

Skulls in motorhome on halloween in a campground-min

Retiree skulls in a motorhome.

As I walked around the campground loop taking photos, Buddy did his usual sniffing and socializing. Suddenly, I felt him stiffen at the end of his leash. I looked down and he was staring at a corpse sticking halfway out of the ground. He crouched really low and gingerly sniffed at the corpse. Suddenly, he jumped back in fright. Then he slowly crept in and got another sniff.

Puppy spooked by scary Halloween monster-min

Buddy jumped when he saw this bloody corpse in the grass.

We had missed the big trick-or-treat night, so we never saw the kids in their costumes. But what a super fun way for families to celebrate Halloween and extend their camping season past the end of summer.

Spooky Halloween decorations at RV campground-min

Witch skeletons hang from a tree.

Lots of families knew each other from previous years and there was a fantastic spirit of celebration everywhere as kids ran between the trailers and parents and grandparents unwound by the campfire.

Spiders ghosts and goblins at RV campground campsite-min

Spiders, ghosts and goblin eyes.

Metamora-Hadley Recreation Area campground is a wonderful place to camp that sits on the shores of a small lake.

Fall leaves at Metamora campground in Michigan-min

Beautiful fall colors across the lake made a great backdrop for the campground festivities.

Happy Halloween!

Spooky Halloween night shadows at the lake-min

Walk softly out there and watch out for things that go bump in the night!

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Mackinac Island, Michigan – A Precious Walk Back in Time!

October 2018 – After enjoying some wonderful fall foliage in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, we made our way to the town of St. Ignace that peers over the Mackinac Bridge at Michigan’s Lower Peninsua.

Mackinac Bridge at sunset RV trip-min

Mackinac Bridge at sunset.

The Mackinac Bridge is a beautiful suspension bridge that sits between Lake Michigan on one side and Lake Huron on the other side. On a hunch we headed out at sunset to see if we could get some pics as the sky changed color and the lights on the bridge were lit.

Using slow shutter speeds we captured the traffic crawling across the bridge.

Mackinac Bridge at night Michigan RV trip-min

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During our RV travels this year we managed to hit Michigan’s Upper Peninsula during a three week long spate of miserable rainy cold days, and a look at the forecast showed more thunderstorms, rain and cold for the next week. But there was one day that had a mere 20% chance of rain, so we decided to hop on Sheppler’s Ferry and head out to Mackinac Island for a day. (“Mackinac” is pronounced “Mackinaw” by the way).

Sheppler's Ferry arrives Mackinac Island Michigan-min

Sheppler’s Ferry brings tourists to Mackinac Island.

The surf was up and big waves hit the side of the ferry in blasts of spray. The captain took us over to the Mackinac Bridge so we could let Lake Michigan’s waves lap the hull for a moment, and then we headed over to Mackinac Island which sits in Lake Huron.

Sheppler's Ferry under the Mackinac Bridge in a storm-min

Water from the waves rolled off the ferry windows as we slipped under Mackinac Bridge.

Mackinac Island Michigan lighthouse-min

The water calmed down a bit when we passed the lighthouse marking the harbor entrance.

As the ferry pulled into the dock at Mackinac Island we got our first glimpse of the pretty buildings by the shore.

First view of Mackinac Island from the Sheppler's Ferry-min

The pretty Victorian buildings of Mackinac Island came into view as we pulled into the harbor.

Mackinac Island is unique because even though the island has lots of paved roads, there are no cars or motorized vehicles allowed anywhere. So, as we stepped off the ferry we were greeted by horses and carriages waiting to take passengers to their hotel destinations or on a ride around town.

Grand Hotel chauffeur Mackinac Island Michigan-min

An old time horse and carriage waits to take arriving passengers to the Grand Hotel.

Mackinac Island horse drawn wagon in Michigan-min

Horses drawn buggies were everywhere.

Mark had been to Mackinac Island many times before, but this was my first visit, and the quaint charm of the horses and buggies all around us captivated me. I could barely walk down the street for all the photos I was snapping of the teams of horses carrying tourists here and there.

Horse drawn wagon Mackinac Island Michigan-min

These buggy rides are the local taxis!

Quaint horse drawn wagon Mackinac Island Michigan-min

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Horse drawn wagon on Mackinac Island Michigan main street-min

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Returning horse drawn wagon Mackinac Island Michigan-min

Heading home… Wow!

Even though it was cold and wet and miserable out, the mood on the street was festive and we quickly got into tourist mode.

Tourist at Mackinac Island Michigan fudge shop-min

We quickly got into tourist mode at the fudge shop!

When we poked our heads into an ice cream shop, we noticed that ice cream wasn’t selling quite as well as it does on hot summer days.

Ice cream line begins here fudge shop Mackinac Island Michigan-min

“Line begins here” … no line today!

We walked down the main drag and watched the comings and goings of the community. Mackinac Island has been a tourist destination since the Victorian era, and the behind-the-scenes work of serving tourists hums along smoothly. Peering down a back alley, we saw an open horse drawn wagon that was hauling some cargo. How neat to have a community where goods are carried by horses and wagons!

Working horses and wagon Mackinac Island Michigan-min

A team of horses pulls a wagon of cargo.

Working horse drawn wagon Mackinac Island Michigan-min

Images like this gave us a glimpse of yesteryear.

If you ride a horse around town you can tie him up at a little post with a horse head on top. Folks with bikes like to lock them to these posts too.

Bike stand like horse head on Mackinac Island Michigan-min

A decorative place to tie up your horse or your bike.

Bicycles are the most popular means of individual transportation, and there were cyclists, bicycles for rent and parked bikes absolutely everywhere.

Horse drawn wagons and bicycles on Mackinac Island Michigan-min

Bicycles were as common as horses, even in the cold weather.

Bicycles everywhere Mackinac Island Michigan-min

Bicycles were parked all over the place.

Bikes on Mackinac Island Michigan main street-min

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Main Street Mackinac Island Michigan-min

No fear of cars here!

Mackinac Island is a destination for cruise ships too, and we saw one pulled up to the dock.

Cruise ship under storm clouds Mackinac Island Michigan-min

A cruise ship waits at the dock.

We wandered beyond the downtown area and found some gorgeous mansions. Standing in front of one with an ornate roof, we were soon deep in conversation with the gray haired owner of the place. It turned out his dad had picked up the property when it was condemned in the 1960s, and he had spent his childhood summers living in this picturesque house just steps from the beach.

Decorative roof on Mackinac Island Michigan-min

We met the man who spent summers in this beautiful house as a kid. Now he operates it as a B&B.

Private residence mansion Mackinac Island Michigan-min

A nice summer cottage!

Elegant house Mackinac Island Michigan-min

Beautiful (with Buddy streaking past)

Bike in the yard Mackinac Island Michigan-min

Tranquility — even on a blustery day.

Some of the homes are perched right on the edge of Lake Huron. Walking a little further on, we found a huge resort that has a slew of Adirondack chairs set out on a lawn facing the lake.

Summer chairs under storm clouds Mackinac Island Michigan-min

A spot to watch the sunset — when there is one!

Mackinac Island State Park Michigan stormy day-min

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Mackinac Island must be a true delight in July, but we were getting a big kick out of it on this dreary October day too. The wind was whipping and the waves were pounding.

Storm clouds and waves Mackinac Island Michigan-min

Storm and fury on Lake Huron.

Wandering back into town, we came across Lady Liberty and some pretty churches.

Mackinac Island statue of liberty in Michigan-min

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Church at Mackinac Island Michigan-min

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But it was the horse drawn wagons and buggies that captured my imagination all day long. How wonderful that there is a place where motorized vehicles aren’t allowed and visitors can experience a vivid immersion in another era.

Fall color and horse drawn wagon Mackinac Island Michigan-min

We couldn’t stop taking pics of the horse drawn wagons.

Carriage ride Mackinac Island Michigan-min

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Mackinac Island would be a fantastic place to spend a few days during the holidays! Even though the ferry ride might be rough, the island has ongoing celebrations throughout the holiday season, and some of the hotels and restaurants remain open.

Horse drawn wagon Mackinac Island Michigan-min

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We won’t be there when the snow flies, but we loved our day trip to Mackinac Island in October!

Carriage Ride Mackinac Island Michigan-min

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If your RV travels take you to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (or the northern tip of the Lower Peninsula), set aside a day to spend on Mackinac Island. No matter what the weather forecast is, it’s a very fun excursion!

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Fall Foliage in Michigan’s U.P. + Lake Superior at Sunset

September 2018 – In mid-September we traveled in our RV to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to see the fall colors and to experience the beauty of the shores of Lake Superior. In the small coastal town of Ontonagon we wandered down to the beach just as the sun was setting.

WOW!

Sunset Ontonagon Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

The sun says goodnight to us across Lake Superior at Ontonagon in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

We were both in seventh heaven as we snapped one gorgeous image after another of the sun giving us its final winks before it slipped out of sight below the horizon.

Lake Superior Sunset in Ontonagon Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

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The waves rolled in and pounded the shore relentlessly while the clouds moved quickly across the sky. The dark blanket of storm clouds turned a vivid pink for a few minutes as they passed.

Ontonagon Michigan Upper Peninsula Sunset_-min

The clouds turned pink for a moment as they marched across the sky.

These kinds of moments are our favorites in our traveling lives: admiring Nature in all her glory and trying to capture what we see on camera. We each stake out a spot that looks appealing and fire away.

When we were contemplating whether we should introduce a puppy to our crazy lifestyle one of our biggest concerns was what he would do while we were busy taking pics. It turns out that he loves these moments too. He keeps himself busy running between us and sniffing everything there is to sniff around us.

Sunset at Lake Superior Ontonagon Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

Buddy loves these sunset outings as much as we do (and he photo bombs a lot of our pics too!).

After the sun disappeared and most of the color had faded a storm appeared on the horizon.

Lake Superior Storm Ontonagon Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

Storm clouds gather in the distance and pour rain on Lake Superior.

Until this season I had seen Lake Superior for just a brief visit years ago. I had dipped my toe in the frigid water in early May and said, “Okay, that’s enough. We’re outta here!”

Mark had told me stories over the years of visiting Lake Superior one winter long ago and seeing huge waves standing bolt upright, frozen solid mid-curl. The whole lake had looked like a lemon meringue pie!

Yet so far in our travels along Lake Superior this fall the lake had been as calm as could be, giving us one wonderful beach experience after another as we skirted along the coast in Wisconsin and in Michigan’s U.P.

However, that sensational sunset we had just witnessed in Ontonagon was the last we’d see of the sun for the next three weeks! Lake Superior started to snarl and the whole Upper Peninsula snarled with it, delivering clouds and rain and nasty cold windy temps day after day after day.

Lake Superior waves Ontonagon Beach Michigan-min

Lake Superior waves dwarf a lighthouse in the distance.

Lake Superior was still fabulous, even in its bad mood. We just had to wear a lot more layers of clothing, that’s all!

Lake Superior surf Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

The waves were enormous and neverending.

We traveled up the Keweenaw Peninsula to Copper Harbor where we got a whiff of what a fantastic summer spot this is. There was a haunting beauty in the cold gray autumn air, but what a place this must be in July!

Kayaks at Copper Harbor Michigan-min

Kayaks wait for better weather at Copper Harbor.

Eagle Harbor Lighthouse Keweenaw Peninsula Michigan-min

Eagle Harbor Lighthouse has assisted mariners for over a century.

Eagle Harbor Lighthouse Keweenaw Peninsula Michigan-min

Eagle Harbor Lighthouse.

In our mission to see the fall color we had seen lots of hardwood trees starting to change, but hadn’t yet witnessed the peak anywhere. When we first arrived in Michigan we stopped at a visitors center that had a wonderful Fall Color Map on the wall. They didn’t have a printed version so I took a photo to help us with our travel planning as we zig-zagged around the U.P.

Fall foliage color map for Michigan-min

The peak fall colors in Michigan occur from late September to late October depending on where you are.

It was bitterly cold, but we just bundled up and had a ball, even though it drizzled off and on for days, in between vicious downpours that pummeled us and our trailer!

Dressed for cold weather leaf peeping in Michigan UP-min

These were One Dog Nights and we were glad to have him!

In planning which areas to visit in the U.P. we had seen spectacular photos of fall color captured in reflections across small lakes and ponds, so we started heading down small twisting dirt roads to get to a few lakes and were well rewarded for our efforts. The wind didn’t die down for a while, so our earlier pics were simple lakeside shots without reflections.

Fall foliage Worm Lake Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

A brilliant maple tree lights up a dreary morning at Worm Lake.

Fall foliage Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

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We took many walks in the woods where the trees were starting to show off their most vibrant shades.

Fall foliage Ottowa National Forest Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

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Autumn leaves Ottowa National Forest Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

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Up close it is amazing to see the color patterns on each leaf.

Hiawatha National Forest Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

Pretty patterns.

Autumn leaves Hiawatha National Forest Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

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The colors were absolutely yummy. Buddy thought so too!

Fall foliage is yummy to a puppy-min

Buddy samples the fall colors.

Fall color Hiawatha National Forest Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

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As we walked around we saw other fun woodsy things like bright red berries and pure white fungus.

Fall berries Michigan Upper Peninsula Ottowa National Forest-min

A hint of Christmas to come!

Ferns and mushrooms Michigan Upper Peninsula forest-min

These bright white fungi were shaped like miniature willow trees, each one about an inch tall!

We made our way back to the coast to visit the Miner’s Castle Overlook which is part of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Lake Superior is shockingly clear in this spot, and if you didn’t know you had to wear a winter jacket to enjoy the view, the turquoise color would make you think the water was as warm as the tropics!

Miner's Castle Pictured Rocks National Park Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

Miner’s Castle at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Some of the best color we found was in Hiawatha National Forest on the small ponds and lakes scattered in the woods south of Munising.

Fall foliage Ottowa National Forest Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

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Fall foliage Hiawatha National Forest Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

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At Moccasin Lake and Red Jack Lake we saw some wonderful mirror reflections in the early morning before the wind picked up.

Autumn leaves Hiawatha National Forest Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

Colorful reflections at Moccasin Lake in Hiawatha National Forest.

Autumn leaves Hiawatha National Forest Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

Red Jack Lake

One day was particularly cold and when we got to the edge of the lake mist was rising off the glassy surface.

Autumn Hiawatha National Forest Michigan Upper Peninsula_-min

Mist at Moccasin Lake

East Lake fall foliage Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

Mist at East Lake

Another fantastic spot we bumped into that doesn’t get any press and isn’t even labeled on Google Maps is Mequisten Recreation Area just a few miles south of Munising on National Forest Road H-13. A beautiful boardwalk takes you all around a series of small ponds with lookouts positioned every few hundred yards. We loved this little jewel so much we went back three times. Buddy had a blast running on the boardwalk. He sounded like a herd of elephants as he tore around, especially when he met another dog and they tore around together!

Mequisten Recreation Area Munising Michigan Upper Peninsula-min-2

Mequisten Recreation Area has a wonderful boardwalk with benches and overlooks.

We didn’t get the crisp sunny air that we had expected during our Upper Peninsula fall foliage tour, but the autumn colors were everything we had hoped they would be!

Puppy at Red Jack Lake in Autumn Michigan Upper Peninsula Hiawatha National Forest-min

Buddy framed by autumn leaves at Red Jack Lake.

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Waterfalls in Michigan’s U.P. – Taquamenon, Bond Falls & Black River Jewels

September 2018 – After taking our RV along the southern shore of Lake Superior in Wisconsin, we arrived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, a place known for spectacular waterfalls.

Happy campers at Bond Falls Waterfall Michigan Upper Peninsula cascade

Three happy campers at Bond Falls in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula


There are so many waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan that it is really hard to decide which ones to see. We started with a cluster of small waterfalls that lie along the Black River in the northwest corner of the U.P. next to the shores of Lake Superior.

The five waterfalls — Rainbow, Gorge, Sandstone, Potawatomi and Conglomerate — are all within a few miles of each other and there is a rustic dry camping campground nearby.

The hike to each waterfall is a very short jaunt through the woods, and we headed to Gorge Falls first.

Hike to Gorge Falls at Black River Michigan-min

Buddy waits for the picture taking slow pokes that are hiking behind him on the way to Gorge Falls.

GORGE FALLS

After a brief hike through the woods, we heard the roar of Gorge Falls as we descended the long staircase down to its base. Then we saw a beautiful rush of water falling down the rocks in front of us.

Hike to Gorge Falls Black River Michigan-min

Gorgeous Gorge Falls

Gorge Falls Black River Michigan-min

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SANDSTONE FALLS

Gorge Falls is right next door to Potawatomi Falls, but it was Sandstone Falls just a short ways away that we liked most of this group of waterfalls on the Black River.

Sandstone Falls is special because rather than a vertical hike to the top or bottom of a steep waterfall you can climb all over the wonderful flat and wide rocks to view the multiple smaller cascades from many angles. A hiker we met on the trail told us his kids love to swim at Sandstone Falls.

As soon as we got there and began clambering around on the rocks I was entranced by the millions of white bubbles that were floating downstream.

The bubbles had come from the froth and foam of bigger waterfall upstream, and they floated at varying speeds down the river. A slow shutter speed showed the magic of this bubbly dance.

Sandstone Falls Black River Michigan-min

Cool bubble patterns at Sandstone Falls.

Sandstone Falls Black River Michigan-min

In one part of the falls the bubbles were swirling in a circle like a pin wheel.

A little further downstream a series of cascades flowed between the rocks.

Sandstone Falls Black River Michigan-min

Sandstone Falls.

Sandstone Falls Black River Michigan-min

We loved climbing on the flat rocks along these cascades at Sandstone Falls.

Black River Michigan Sandstone Falls-min

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After an exhilarating waterfall hike (or two) there’s nothing like a nice cold frosty brew. It didn’t take us long to discover the many flavorful craft beers made in the Upper Peninsula by Upper Hand Brewery. One of our favorites was a pale ale called Yooper which is the local term for people who live in the U.P.

Yooper Beer by Upper Hand Brewery-min

Yooper is a yummy pale ale named for the people who live in the U.P. !



RAINBOW FALLS

At the mouth of the Black River where it dumps its inky brown tannin-filled water into the blue water of Lake Superior there’s a small marina at Black River Harbor and a cool suspension bridge that crosses the river.

Suspension bridge Black River Harbor Michigan-min

There’s a fun suspension foot bridge over the Black River near the harbor.

The best views of Rainbow Falls are reached by hiking through the woods from the suspension bridge at Black River Harbor. We headed into the woods one morning as mist still hung heavy in the air.

Woods hiking trail Black River Harbor Michigan-min

Our trail through the woods on the way to Rainbow Falls.

This trail from Black River Harbor to Rainbow Falls is part of the 4,600 mile long North Country Trail that stretches through seven northern states from North Dakota to New York. Like the more famous Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail, this is a trail that can be hiked in tiny sections — like going from Black River Harbor to Rainbow Falls as we were doing — or can be through-hiked from one end to the other over the course of many weeks.

We passed a trail box that contained maps and info and a sign-in book for hikers doing big adventurous hikes on this trail. We got a thrill looking into the box and imagining what it takes to do such a hike.

A few years back when we were doing a waterfall hike that crossed the Appalachian Trail, we met a fellow at the intersection of the two trails who was doing a through-hike on the Appalachian Trail. We’d been intrigued to see him carrying a very small pack for his four month adventure and to discover that his hiking boots were still holding up after hiking a third of the Appalachian Trail (700 miles) so far (blog post here).

Trail box North Country Trail Black River Harbor Michigan-min

The Black River Harbor to Rainbow Falls hiking trail is part of the 4,600 mile North Country Trail.
This weather-proof metal trail box held goodies for through-hikers.

Hiking the North Country Trail sounds very exciting, but we were content with a brief mile and a half hike out to Rainbow Falls.

Rainbow Waterfall Black River Michigan-min

Rainbow Falls

As we stood taking photos of the falls a woman appeared across from us on the other side of the cascade at the top of the falls, phone in hand. She took a selfie and then she suddenly jumped from one rock to another over a part of the waterfall.

Holy smokes!

She seemed to think nothing of it, but this is a remote spot and the bottom of the falls was a long way down. We were the only ones in the area, and I doubt she knew we were there because the woods were very thick and we weren’t standing near the edge.

Brave jumper Rainbow Falls Black River Michigan-min

This could have been the last photo of this woman.

Closer to the ground, and much more rooted to it, Mark found a cluster of mushrooms standing between some red leaves that had fallen.

Toadstools and fall leaves Black River Harbor Michigan-min

Mark discovered a cluster of mushrooms on the ground.

Lying on the ground and shooting up at the undersides of the mushroom caps gave a wonderful effect.

Mushrooms in the forest near Black River Michigan-min

Shooting up at the bottoms of the mushroom caps seemed to capture their mushroom essence better than shooting down on them from above.

Even though all these cool woodsy things like waterfalls and mushrooms were just steps from Lake Superior, we hadn’t felt the lake’s presence at all during our stay.

However, a leisurely walk around nearby Black River Harbor took us to a nice sandy beach that was a delightful contrast to the thick woods that had dominated our lives for a few days.

Lake Superior Black River Harbor Recreation Area-min

Once you get clear of the woods, Lake Superior is right there.

The water in Lake Superior was surprisingly warm, and we tossed a stick out a little ways to see if Buddy would swim out to retrieve it. Sure enough, he did a few dog paddle strokes, but rather than swim back to shore he swam over to a nearby log and climbed out of the water as quickly as he could and walked on the log back on it to the sand!

Puppy climbs out of Lake Superior with stick x

Smart pup took a shortcut and climbed up on a log to walk back rather than swim to shore!

BOND FALLS

The Black River waterfalls are not well known, but Bond Falls, about 75 miles away, is one of the most popular destinations in Michigan’s entire Upper Peninsula. And rightfully so.

Bond Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls in Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

Bond Falls is one of the most famous waterfalls in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.


A walking path and boardwalk takes visitors from the base of the falls up along one side to several smaller cascades. It is these cozier spots that attract photographers, and many a Michigan travel brochure or waterfall field guide sports a cover or centerfold photo from here.

Michigan Upper Peninsula Waterfalls Bond Falls_-min

A smaller cascade above the main waterfall is a beautiful little spot.

Even though Mark and I often take photos standing shoulder to shoulder, our results are usually very different. This time we each instinctively gravitated to different shutter speeds…

Bond Falls Waterfall Michigan Upper Peninsula cascade-min

I kept the shutter open for 2.5 seconds for a super silky and fluffy look.

Bond Falls Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

Mark used a shutter speed of 1/6 second for a more crisp impression of the scene.

We loved Bond Falls and visited several times at different hours of the day. Families with kids and old folks made their way up and down the path alongside the falls all the time, and most had been there before.

One older gal stopped to talk with me and told me she had grown up in the area 65 years ago and that she and her siblings had swum in the calmer parts of Bond Falls as kids. That wouldn’t be allowed today, but her eyes twinkled as she reminisced about being a little girl and calling this place home.

Peace in Bond Falls in Autumn Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

We met a woman who grew up swimming here above the waterfall at Bond Falls. How wonderful!

TAQUAMENON FALLS

One of the most dramatic waterfalls in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is Taquamenon Falls over in the northeast corner of the peninsula. When we walked out on the path to the falls and got our first glimpse through the autumn leaves, my jaw dropped and I set up to take a shot immediately.

A young couple coming back from the hike down to the falls saw my tripod and camera gear and asked me if this was the best place to photograph the falls.

I laughed and said I had no idea. This was the first I’d seen of them! But it was very beautiful…

Taquamenon Falls Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

Our first glimpse of Taquamenon Falls

A little further on there was another view of the waterfall wrapped in fall colors.

Taquamenon Falls waterfall Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

Taquamenon Falls

We followed the path towards the falls and came across a sign that explained what to expect as we descended a long ways down to get a close-up view of Taquamenon Falls. We had to laugh when we read it!

94 Steps to the Brink of Taquamenon Falls-min

If only we always got such a simple warning when we’re about to face disaster!

At The Brink we got a lovely sidelong view of Taquamenon Falls.

Taquamenon Falls Michigan Upper Peninsula-min

Taquamenon Falls at The Brink

We climbed back up the 94 steps from The Brink and headed out on the path to The Gorge. This gave us a wonderful view of the falls from another vantage point.

Taquamenon Falls Michigan Upper Peninsula Waterfall-min

Taquamenon Falls as seen from The Gorge.

If you are a fan of waterfalls, as we are, the U.P. is a fantastic place to go waterfall hunting. These were just a few of dozens of waterfalls we could have seen, and I know we missed some beauties that we’ll have to check out another time. But we were delighted by the variety of the falls we saw and the fun hikes and walks we took to get to them.

Fifth wheel RV Black River Harbor Campground Michigan-min

Black River Campground.

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Wisconsin’s Lake Superior Shoreline – Cute Towns & Great Sunsets!

September 2018 – After our delightful stop in Walker, Minnesota, we continued our RV travels towards Lake Superior, and we made landfall (waterfall?) just east of Duluth on the lakeshores of Wisconsin.

Lake Superior Scenic Drive Wisconsin RV trip

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Our first glimpse of mighty Lake Superior was very humble. We parked the rig and ran down a short path between thigh high bushes to a spot where endless small waves landed on a thin ribbon of driftwood strewn beach. The water was very red and muddy. We thought the red tint would look cool at sunset, but we were too excited to stick around to wait for sunset, so we kept going.

Lake Superior First Glimpse in Wisconsin-min

Our first glimpse of Lake Superior — It’s red!

The road hugged the shoreline but offered few views of the water until we rounded a slight bend and saw the most charming harbor. Big sailboats were lined up by docks along the shore.

Sailboats in Cornucopia Wisconsin Lake Superior-min

When we spotted sailboats in a small harbor we had to stop.

Docks and Sailboats Cornucopia WIsconsin Lake Superior-min

Beautiful!

The juxtaposition of the tall pine trees of Wisconsin and the towering masts of ocean worthy sailing vessels was fantastic.

Sailboats in Cornucopia WIsconsin Lake Superior-min

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We were in Cornucopia, a little beachside hamlet that has a few charming tourist boutique gift shops.

Boutique gift shop Cornucopia Wisconsin Lake Superior-min

Pretty tourist boutiques were lined up by the docks. So cute!

Summer flowers Cornucopia WIsconsin Lake Superior-min

Summer flowers on the sides of the buildings.

Across the street there was a small cluster of buildings that make up the town. Cornucopia is nicknamed “Corny,” and the Corny Coffee Shop was very inviting.

Corny Coffee Cornucopia Wisconsin Lake Superior-min

Across the street we found the Corny Coffee Shop.

But the area that kept drawing us back was the little harbor.

Kayaks in harbor at Cornucopia Wisconsin Lake Superior-min

Last summer days.

Sunset Lake Superior Wisconsin-min

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Just a little further east on Wisconsin’s Lake Superior shoreline we found Meyers Beach. The National Park Service has a tiny outpost here for the Mainland Sea Caves around the corner, and lots of people launch their kayaks from the beach to get to them.

Kayak on Lake Superior in Wisconsin-min

A kayak returns to Meyers Beach from the nearby Sea Caves.

Kayaks on the beach on Lake Superior in Wisconsin-min

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Every so often in the latter part of wintertime this part of Lake Superior freezes and you can walk the mile or so out to the sea caves. This happened a few years ago, and when the phenomenon made the national news, the cars lined up for miles as people came to Meyers Beach to explore the frozen caves.

Kayaking to Apostle Island Caves in Wisconsin Lake Superior-min

Kayaks head out towards the Sea Caves.

From Meyers Beach we traveled to Little Sand Bay on the northern tip of this peninsula on Wisconsin’s Lake Superior shoreline. There is a campground up there with lots of boating activities in the summertime. It was pretty quiet by this time in September, but we did catch a cute pic of our fifth wheel next to a sailboat on a trailer in the parking lot!

Sailboat and fifth wheel RV Little Sand Bay Wisconsin Lake Superior-min

Up in Little Sand Bay we got a kick out of seeing our buggy next to a sailboat on a trailer.

Fall was progressing and apples were ripening on trees all over the place. One day when we parked I noticed that the ground was strewn with apples. I looked up and the tree branches above me were filled with ripe apples. I picked a few, and those were the juiciest and most sweet/tart apples we’ve had in a long time.

The apples were tastiest when eaten with thin slices of extra sharp Wisconsin cheddar cheese to go with. When we first got to Wisconsin I started hunting around for a good sharp cheddar and discovered that unlike cheddar cheese from other places (like Vermont), all Wisconsin cheddar cheeses are yellow, no matter how mild or sharp!

Fresh apple from the tree in Lake Superior WIsconsin-min

Juicy, sweet and tart, and especially delicious with Wisconsin extra sharp cheddar cheese!

Our shore-side route along Wisconsin’s piece of Lake Superior took us to Red Cliff where we found a wonderful restaurant, campground and marina right on the edge of the lake at the casino.

A little further down the coast we found the pretty town town of Bayfield.

Bayfield Marina Lake Superior in Wisconsin-min

Bayfield, Wisconsin, is a picturesque waterfront town on Lake Superior.

We made our way down to the boat docks. A big flock of resident seagulls took off as we approached.

Seagulls flying Bayfield Wisconsin Lake Superior-min

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As we talked to boat owners about what it’s like to sail on Lake Superior, I noticed that many boaters had planted flowers, tomatoes and peppers in between the rocks in the breakwater that protected their boats from the wild waves of the lake. What a clever idea! Almost every slip resident had created a boatside garden in the rocks.

Flowers in the rocks at_-min

At Bayfield Marina boaters planted gardens between the rocks in the breakwater. So clever!

Bayfield is a charming waterfront town that has a very salty air, even though it is on a lake and not the ocean.

Old Salts Bayfield Wisconsin Lake Superior-min

Old Salts and a pirate’s parrot on freshwater Lake Superior.

Pretty building Bayfield Wisconsin on Lake Superior-min

What a great deck for lunch overlooking the bay during summertime…

One morning we got down to the waterfront at dawn to take some photos. The sun was playing games with the clouds, and as we walked around Memorial Park taking pics, I captured a photo of the sun peeking out from behind the clouds and backlighting a flag on a lamp post.

Later that day when I was going through my photos I realized the date was 9/11. The photo seemed very fitting.

Dawn in Bayfield Wisconsin on Lake Superior-min

Dawn in Bayfield, Wisconsin, on 9/11.

Up in town there were several coffee shops, and once the sun was up we picked a place for a morning cuppa joe. Buddy saw me go into the coffee shop and sat transfixed by the slightly open door until I emerged again, latte in hand.

Puppy waits for coffee Bayfield Wisconsin Lake Superior-min

Buddy waited expectantly outside while I got coffee and muffins.

A lot of rain had fallen overnight and there were big puddles in the parking areas near the marina. As we walked back down through the parking lot Buddy wandered through a puddle and then suddenly sat down in a dry spot. He was on his own little island.

Puppy in a puddle Bayfield Wisconsin Lake Superior-min

In a mellow mood, Buddy suddenly began to model for us on a dry spot in the middle of a puddle.

We both noticed that the puddle was creating fantastic reflections of him as he sat there, and for some reason he seemed very content to stay on his little island for quite a while.

Puppy reflections Lake Superior Wisconsin-min

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I crept around him to try to line him up with Lake Superior in the background.

Puppy puddle reflection Lake Superior Wisconsin-min

We couldn’t believe he stayed so still for so long.

Looking at the pics afterwards, I turned my laptop on its side to show the above photo to Mark. As I flipped the laptop back, I caught a glimpse of the image upside down.

Wow!! It was as if Buddy was sitting in the heavens!

Buddy Angel Puppy puddle reflection Lake Superior Wisconsin-min

Buddy Angel.

Our friend Bob who has created many marvelous magazine covers of Buddy for “Dog Life Magazine” (pretend ones, of course) had suggested a while ago that Buddy’s song is “Buddy Angel,” sung to the tune of the 1960s hit “Johnny Angel” (listen here).

Although Buddy is definitely a little angel sent to us straight from heaven, he is still very much a dog. A little further south when we did a brief walk through the woods to get down to the beach, Buddy suddenly stopped at the foot of a tree and stared into the branches.

High overhead a little squirrel scolded him.

Puppy looks at squirrel in tree Lake Superior Wisconsin-min

With his angel wings folded Buddy is still all puppy as he looks up at a squirrel in the tree.

Squirrel in tree Lake Superior WIsconsin-min

“Hey Puppy — Catch me if you can!!”

But it was lying in the warm sand that was most satisfying. We had arrived on Lake Superior just in time for a fantastic week of Indian Summer and the temps were in the 80s. I was astonished that the water was fairly warm too and we saw quite a few people swimming.

Puppy on the red sand Lake Superior Wisconsin-min

The hot sand feels so good…

But the warm temps didn’t stop the wind from blowing and whipping up the waves. When we stopped in the town of Washburn the waves kicked up against the town jetty and sloshed all over the place.

Wild waves Washburn WIsconsin Lake Superior-min

Wild chop at the jetty in Washburn.

This didn’t seem like a great time to jump in the water, but over at a small beach we watched two guys set up their kiteboards for a bit of fun.

Kiteboard Washburn WIsconsin Lake Superior-min

Kite boarders were thrilled that the wind was up.

In just a few minutes they were airborne!

Kiteboard flying Washburn Wisconsin Lake Superior-min

In no time the kite boarders were soaring over the water.

Kiteboarding Washburn WIsconsin Lake Superior-min

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This little trip along the shores of Lake Superior in Wisconsin had been full of delights, including a bright blue canoe that had been transformed into a planter full of flowers.

Canoe flower box Lake Superior Wisconsin-min

Flowers in a canoe.

And what a blessing it was to arrive on the shores of Lake Superior in the middle of such ideal summer weather.

Sunset Lake Superior Wisconsin-min

Sunset on Lake Superior in Wisconsin.

If your travels take you to Wisconsin, be sure to sample some of the shoreline route, even if you have a big RV like ours.

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Walker, Minnesota – A Hidden Jewel in the 10,000 Lakes

September 2018 – Our travels this past spring and summer were focused in the western states with many fabulous adventures in Utah, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota and North Dakota, but in early September we drove our RV out of the west in a hurry to catch the fall colors on Lake Superior in northern Michigan.

When I-94 took a turn to the southeast at Fargo, we got off onto secondary roads to make a beeline towards Lake Superior. Suddenly, we found ourselves immersed in Minnesota’s Land of 10,000 lakes. There were lakes of all sizes everywhere.

Walker City Park Minnesota-min

Walker City Park overlooks Leech Lake in Minnesota.

We hadn’t planned it this way, but we discovered we were driving on one of Minnesota’s designated scenic drives, the Lake Country Scenic Drive. How cool is that?

The views out our windows were certainly very pretty!

We saw a sign for the Paul Bunyan State Trail and just had to check it out. This is a fantastic rails-to-trails paved path that goes for miles and miles between the 10,000 lakes.

Bicycling on the Heartland State Trail near Walker Minnesota-min

We biked a bit of the Paul Bunyan and Heartland State Trails in Minnesota’s lake country.

As we were riding we came to an intersection with another rails-to-trails system, the Heartland State Trail. We were floored to see destinations listed on a wooden sign for as far as 66 miles away. What an amazing place to ride a bike or stretch your legs (especially if you have four of them!).

The Heartland State Trail near Walker Minnesota-min

Buddy loved the rails-to-trails routes too.

The lakes have all kinds of names, but the name Leech Lake really caught our attention. “I wouldn’t want to go there,” Mark said dryly. “I’ve swum in lakes with leeches and had to pull them off me.” Yuck!

But it turns out that Leech Lake is a great spot for all kinds of recreation, and we were soon caught in its spell.

Walker on Leach Lake map-min

Leech Lake is full of fun, and we never saw any leeches!

The small town of Walker overlooks the lake, and we strolled along the shore taking in the views and relaxing ambiance. What a pretty spot!

Park bench overlooking Leech Lake in Walker Minnesota-min

Leech Lake.

Leech Lake at Walker City Park Minnesota-min

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One of the most popular pastimes on this lake is fishing, and apparently it is the Muskie capital of the world. From kids to old folks we saw lots of fishermen patiently waiting for the big catch.

Fishing in Leech Lake in Walker Minnesota-min

The fishing is good here.

Even the dearly departed who left good fishing memories behind in this life took their rods with them to their next destination.

Park bench at Leech Lake in Walker Minnesota-min

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As we wandered towards town we realized that Leech Lake truly is the lifeblood and soul of this small community, and it had a real beach town vibe. Colorful kayaks were lined up against the wall of a building, ready to take people for a ride, and a huge pelican perched on the rooftop of a shop on the main street.

Kayaks in Walker Minnesota-min

Kayaks of every color.

Pelican on a store roof in Walker Minnesota-min

Walker is a waterfront town.

As we poked our heads in various nooks and crannies around the town of Walker, we discovered that the very next day there would be a special celebration: the Ethnic Festival. Well, we certainly had to stick around to see that!

Main street in Walker Minnesota before the Ethnic Day Parade-min

We arrived a day before the Ethnic Festival, so we had to stay and see it!

We got into town the next morning just as the vendors were setting up their booths, and a lady suddenly called out to us. “Would your puppy be willing to be my mascot for the day?”

She went on to explain that she was selling hand sewn goodies, and one of her products was bandanas for dogs that slipped onto their collars.

Buddy loves attention, so he jumped at the chance to be a bandana mascot for the day, and he quickly set about choosing which one to wear.

Selling dog bandanas-min

Buddy got hired as a doggie bandana salesman.

Mark held out a few, and he sniffed each one.

Picking out a puppy bandana-min

“Which one would you like?”

He finally chose a patriotic bandana with American flags all over it. He looked very dapper in it.

Puppy shows off American flag bandana-min

A dapper dog!

As he was showing it off he noticed a stuffed dog at the lady’s booth that was wearing a bright red bandana. He had to check it out!

Puppy checks out stuffed dog-min

“I like your bandana but you’re a bit stuffy.”

We found out later that Buddy did an excellent job as the puppy bandana mascot for the day. The lady sold dozens of bandanas during the festival!

Puppy in American flag bandana watches parade in Walker Minnesota-min

Buddy kept an eye on how the sales were doing over at the doggie bandana booth.

The Ethnic Festival parade was about to begin and we found a place to watch along the curb.

Waiting for the Ethnic Festival parade to begin in Walker Minnesota-min

Patiently waiting for the parade to begin.

The parade began with a flourish as the town’s dignitaries passed. Then came a line of bright and shiny Corvettes that were headed to the Corvette car show that would take place in the Walker City Park after the parade ended. Beautiful!

Ethnic Festival in Walker Minnesota-min

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Corvette Car Show in Walker Minnesota-min

Pretty Corvettes roll by on their way to the Walker City Park.

A group of motorcycles went by and we noticed that the backs of their jackets said “Descendants of Leech Lake,” “Descendants of Navajo” and descendants of other groups in the area.

Motorcycle organization Descendents of Leech Lake Walker Minnesota-min

These motorcyclists have deep roots around Walker, Minnesota.

Then a group of flags from many nations appeared.

Flags in Walker Minnesota Ethnic Festival parade-min

Flags from many places including the Leech Lake Indian Reservation.

Minnesota has a strong Scandinavian heritage but lots of other folks have made their mark too. From bagpipes to accordions to alphorns we heard music of all kinds and saw some fabulous floats and outfits.

Bagpipe band in Ethnic Festival parade in Walker Minnesota-min

A bagpipe band marched by.

Musicians of all kinds drifted by on floats, and dancers showed off their moves.

Musicians from First National Bank in the Walker Ethnic Festival parade-min

Musicians from the First National Bank floated by.

After Smoky the Bear wrapped up the parade atop a US Forest Service truck we made our way over to the vendor booths to look around.

A fantastic duo playing alphorns had appeared on a float in the parade, and we found them again playing in the streets among the vendors. These beautiful horns make a deep and mellow sound, and the prettily dressed women stood in the middle of the throng playing all kinds of sweet melodies.

Alphorn players at Ethnic Festival in Walker Minnesota-min

Two gals played these fantastic alphorns.

In addition to a wide variety of ethnic foods being sold from carts all around the park, there were lots of arts and crafts for sale too. We knew we had hit the eastern side of the country when we saw baskets and miniature canoes made of birch bark!

Birch bark baskets at Ethnic Festival in Walker Minnesota-min

There were lots of arts and crafts including goodies made from birch bark.

As we admired the birch bark baskets, Mark and I chatted with each other about how we’d started seeing the white barked birch trees of the east rather than the white barked aspen trees of the west.

“Wait, did we cross the Mississippi?” Mark suddenly asked. I wasn’t sure, and we didn’t have a map handy. Ironically, within a few minutes we started talking to a local fellow, and when we asked him for suggestions of what to see and do in the area he said:

“You’ve gotta go see the headwaters of the Mississippi. It’s just 35 miles northwest of here at Itasca State Park. It’s just a tiny trickle of water, though!”

We ended up saving that adventure for another time, but it was very cool to have our question anwered like that.

Down at Walker City Park on the lake the Corvettes were gleaming in the sun.

Corvette Car Show Walker Minnesota during Ethnic Festival day-min

The Corvette Car Show was lots of fun.

Corvette Car Show on Leech Lake Walker Minnesota Ethnic Festival-min

Sports car in front and yacht behind. Nice!

Corvette license plate I Begged-min

The begging worked!

One fellow brought his handcrafted woody car to show off as well. What a beauty! Built on a Chevy S-10 frame, he spent 18 years creating it. What a smile he had as he drove up!

Custom Woody car built on a Chevy S-10 frame-min

For all that Corvette beauty, the star of the show was a hand crafted woody built on a Chevy S-10 frame.

Custom woody car built on Chevy S-10 frame-min

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Dashboard of Woody car built on Chevy S10 frame-min

It took 18 years to make this beauty.

Wooden spare tire cover on a custom woody car built on a Chevy S10 frame-min

The spare tires on each side sported covers decorated with an eagle made of inlaid wood.

The Ethnic Festival and Corvette Car Show in Walker made for a really fun day, and Buddy basked in the attention that he got all day long.

One family stopped to pet him early in the day and then sought him out a little later to get a second round of pats. “We needed another Buddy fix,” the mom told to me as her kids settled down in the grass to rub their hands on Buddy’s soft fur.

Puppy gets attention at the Ethics Festival in Walker Minnesota-min

Buddy made lots of new friends.

Aw heck, I love getting my Buddy fixes too!

Happy camper and puppy at Walker City Park Minnesota-min

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We were totally tickled that we had thrown a dart at the map of Minnesota and randomly chosen the Walker area as a stopover on our way to Lake Superior. What luck that we not only found a cool small town but that they had a festival going on while we were there.

Then again, it seems that almost any weekend you arrive in Walker, Minnesota, there is something exciting going on. The calendar of events for Walker reveals something special happening every single weekend all year long.

This is a place we’ll return to for sure. What a great introduction it gave us to the state of Minnesota!!

Go Vikings good luck rock in a US mailbox-min

I noticed this painted rock sitting on a mailbox.
Right after I snapped this photo, a Minnesota Vikings fan came by and snatched it up!

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North Dakota at a Glance – Roosevelt NP and Surprises in the Prairie

September 2018 – We became residents of South Dakota over eleven years ago, but it was our travels through South Dakota last year and this year that gave the state a special place in our hearts.

Little church on the prairie in North Dakota-min

Little church on the prairie.

Between the beauty of the Black Hills, the tame wildlife in Custer State Park, the remote pretty scenery and cozy friendliness of tiny Buffalo, there was a wholesomeness everywhere that was deeply appealing.

Little church on the prairie in North Dakota-min

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We continued our travels on South Dakota’s back roads as we headed north from Buffalo. The wide open prairie stretched out on either side of us, dotted here and there with farmhouses and rows of silos.

North Dakota back roads scenery-min

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There were hay bales everywhere. Modern farm equipment rolls the hay into enormous round bales — the old small rectangular hay bales are long gone! — and these big rolls were scattered about across the plains.

Haying in North Dakota-min

Haying was in full swing and hay bales were everywhere!

Wheat silos in North Dakota-min

Not exactly the old family farm any more!

Hay bales in North Dakota-min

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Once in a while we passed a small creek or stream, but for the most part the landscape stretched out to the horizon in amber waves of grain.

North Dakota back roads scenery-min

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Scenic drive on North Dakota back roads-min

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Hay fields in North Dakota-min

Amber waves of grain.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park lies in southwestern North Dakota, just over the border of northwestern South Dakota. This Park is filled with badlands, eroded sedimentary rock that has been carved by the Little Missouri River and its tributaries.

We were looking forward to photographing the teepee shaped rock formations and hadn’t thought much about the kinds of wildlife we’d see.

So, it was a huge surprise when the official Roosevelt National Park Greeter welcomed us with a sway of his huge head and grass hanging out of his mouth, right at the Painted Canyon Visitor’s Center parking lot!

A buffalo grazes at Roosevelt National Park Visitors Center-min

Theodore Roosevelt National Park has a unique Greeter at the Visitors Center!

Fortunately, he was paying more attention to the grass than he was to his job as a Greeter, so cars and trucks were slowly pulling alongside him to get photos. A few of us got out of our cars to snap a shot or two.

Buffalo grazing at Roosevelt National Park visitors center-min

Never mind the impressive badlands scenery. Get a pic of that buffalo!

I loved it when he wandered over towards a sign with an image of a buffalo on it that said, “Do Not Approach Wildlife.” Yes, siree! We stayed well away and were grateful for our long lenses!

Buffalo and sign Do Not Approach Wildlife-min

The sign says: “Do not Approach Wildlife!”

Teddy Roosevelt National Park has two units, North and South, and the Painted Canyon is in the South Unit.

The park was established and named for President Roosevelt (1901-1909) in 1947. As a younger man Roosevelt had purchased a cattle ranch in North Dakota a bit south of Medora, the town that anchors the South Unit of the National Park.

Roosevelt’s ranch was located 10 miles from his nearest northern ranching neighbor and 12 miles from his nearest southern ranching neighbor, just enough space for a man to breathe freely away from the crowds.

Painted Canyon Scenic overlook Teddy Roosevelt National Park North Dakota-min

Painted Canyon.

Painted Canyon Scenic overlook Teddy Roosevelt National Park North Dakota-min

Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Both Roosevelt’s wife and his mother died on Valentine’s Day of 1884. What an unimaginable blow! The following summer he started a second ranch nearby which he called the Elkhorn. This became his home ranch where he spent most of his time.

In 1918 Roosevelt commented, “I have always said I never would have been President if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota.” It certainly cemented his love for wild places and the outdoors.

Teddy Roosevelt is the president who pioneered the concept of preserving natural areas. Not only did he established the US Forest Service and sign into law the 1906 Antiquities Act under which National Monuments are created, but he established five National Parks and 150 National Forests.

Painted Canyon Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Dakota-min

There’s a lovely hike right from the visitors center.

Early fall color Painted Canyon Scenic overlook Teddy Roosevelt National Park North Dakota-min

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As we wandered along the trails at the Painted Canyon Visitors Center, we noticed to our complete surprise that the leaves were already beginning to change color. Even though Labor Day was barely behind us, Fall was starting.

Fall color Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Dakota-min

Fall?! Already??!!!

Ever since last January we have been telling each other and anyone who asked us, “We are headed to the U.P. of Michigan.”

All summer long as we enjoyed the very cool mountain weather in Montana and Wyoming, we stared in disbelief at the baking hot crimson temperature maps of America and saw the rest of the country was sweltering.

Even though the Upper Peninsula remained relatively cool because of the cold waters of Lake Superior, the hundreds of miles between “here” and “there” would take us through lots of miserable summer heat.

So, we waited.

However, when we saw the fall leaves in Roosevelt National Park beginning to turn, we panicked. I instantly hopped on the internet to find out exactly when the leaves peaked in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and one site said it was September 17th. Holy Smokes!!

We dropped all plans of exploring Teddy Roosevelt National Park’s North and South units and the intriguing sounding petrified forest nearby, and we jumped on I-94 East in an all-fired rush to get to Lake Superior.

Round hay bales in North Dakota-min

Even up on I-94 we kept seeing round hay bales in the wide open prairie.

Rural scenery in North Dakota-min

A rare single silo farm.

Despite traveling on the interstate, we still had wonderful views of the Northern Plains. Hay bales were still scattered everywhere and grain silos stood like battalions of soldiers stationed every few miles.

Wheat and grain silos North Dakota-min

Wheat!

Once in a while we’d catch a glimpse of the farming style of old, perhaps from the days not too long after Teddy Roosevelt did his cattle ranching in the area.

Old farmhouse North Dakota-min

The way it used to be, perhaps not long after Roosevelt’s day.

We had been planning to spend a few weeks in North Dakota, and I had highlighted quite a few spots on the map that would be fun to see. One is the Enchanted Highway, a stretch of road that runs north-south through the prairie off of I-94.

The Enchanted Highway is special because of seven enormous metal sculptures that have been erected amid all those amber waves of grain. The first one — Geese in Flight — was visible for a split second from I-94, and we got a glimpse of it at 65 mph as we flew past.

Flying Geese Enchanted Highway North Dakota-min

“Geese in Flight” at the northern end of the Enchanted Highway

The Enchanted Highway, along with the rest of Roosevelt National Park and half a dozen scenic drives, will all have to wait for another visit. In the meantime, North Dakota sailed past our windows. Although we didn’t see the the other six Enchanting Sculptures on the Enchanted Highway, we did see an enormous cow on a hill in the distance.

Giant cow in North Dakota-min

A mammoth cow offered a bit of enchantment on I-94.

When we do massive, long distance travel with our trailer in tow (250 miles in a day is “massive” for us in our trailer these days), we like to start before breakfast and then make pit stops for breakfast, a morning walk, lunch, an afternoon walk, and so on. That’s probably what makes these not-so-very-long mileage days seem “massive.” We stop at least once every hour!

I was busy staring out the window when Mark suddenly exited the highway. Since he had a smirk on his face I pretended I knew exactly what he was up to. But I was quite alarmed when he drove down a long country lane without saying anything. Finally, I couldn’t stand it any longer and had to ask him where the heck we were going.

“I saw the sign for Fort Sauerkraut and I just had to go see what it is!” he said.

It turned out that the remains of Fort Sauerkraut was a small wooden building built into a hillside. The fort was built to give the people in the area a place to hide from an anticipated Indian raid. Fortunately, the raid never happened, so the fort never had to be used. However, the story goes that a bunch of pigs discovered the hoard of sausages that had been buried in anticipation of the raid, and they ate them all!

Buddy might have been hunting for yummy food scraps too as he scampered across the roof.

Fort Sauerkraut Roof with puppy-min

Buddy checks out the roof of Fort Sauerkraut.

Inside the fort was rather barren. The plan was just to give the families in the area a safe place to hide out for a short time.

Inside Fort Sauerkraut in Hebron North Dakota-min

Luckily the fort never had to be used.

On a plaque outside the fort there is a long and detailed description of the months and years surrounding the fort’s creation in 1890.

The history was written in 1933 and it brought to life the intense fear and mistrust between the Indians and the settlers in the late 1800s. There was good reason on both sides to be petrified of the opposition, yet at the same time the legends of the American West were already being canonized by its star players abroad.

Indian Chief Sitting Bull had toured the big cities of the eastern states and Europe alongside Buffalo Bill Cody, bringing the exotic American Wild West to distant urbanites. When he returned he brought his own observations of those far-flung lands home to his people.

Interestingly, it was the widespread fear that Sitting Bull was planning to lead a raid into this part of North Dakota, despite (or because of) his retirement from shows and touring, that made the local farmers and ranchers erect the fort.

Nowadays the view from the hill where the fort stands takes in nearby grain silos in the direction the Indians were expected to come. Our trailer was parked at the bottom of the hill on the opposite side.

Grain silos and wind farm in North Dakota-min

The view from Fort Sauerkraut today.

RV parked in rural North Dakota-min

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Fort Sauerkraut is on the edge of the town of Hebron which is known as the Brick City. As we walked through this very quiet town I noticed a gourmet coffee shop. Yay!!

Dark Side of the Brew Coffee Shop Hebron North Dakota-min

We got lucky and found yummy espresso and baked goodies at Dark Side of the Brew Coffee in Hebron.
“Low Batt…Need Caffeine!”

When we stopped in for a large hazlenut latte (for me — Mark doesn’t drink coffee!) I joked with the owner that I was so excited to see an espresso shop out “in the middle of nowhere.”

She laughed and nodded. “You never know in these small towns. A lot of them don’t have espresso shops!”

I asked her what the grain was that we had been seeing for the last few hours and she said it was wheat. She further explained that the big employers in town were the wheat mill and the brick company, but that nowadays most folks commute to Bismarck or Dickinson.

What would those settlers and Indians of 150 years ago think? For them it was a long long horseback ride to get to Bismarck, and in the days of Fort Sauerkraut there weren’t many roads to Hebron. Most folks took their horses and buggies right across the prairie, even in the dead of night when an Indian raid was expected!

RV fifth wheel camping at dusk-min

We never really know where our travels will take us, but it’s always good!

Another few long days at 65 mph on the road would get us to Lake Superior. Luckily, once we arrived and started asking around, we discovered that the fall colors in northern Michigan extend all the way from late September to late October. We probably didn’t need to rush so fast across country to get to this big lake. On the other hand, we were thrilled to see something new and completely different, and the Indian Summer temps on our arrival were absolutely ideal.

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Soap Box Derby & Barrel Races – A Labor Day to Remember!

September 2018 – When we were in the town of Buffalo, South Dakota, buying groceries, we noticed a flyer on the window that gave a detailed listing of all the many things that were going to be happening over Labor Day Weekend. For a town of 380 people, it seemed like this community was going to be celebrating in style.

All kinds of events were planned, from calf roping to arm wrestling to rodeo kids events to a parade to golf tournaments to movies in the evening to street games and singing and dancing. But it was the Soap Box Derby we wanted to see!

Soap box race trophes Buffalo SD Labor Day weekend-min

1st, 2nd and 3rd prize trophies for the Soap Box Derby.

The Soap Box Derby is held on Tabernacle Hill on the edge of town where the road goes down at a gentle angle that is just right for the younger set. The “soap boxes” were a little more sophisticated than the wooden crates we imagined. Sporting steering wheels and sized about like a little red wagon (perhaps a few wagons had been converted for the race!), they looked like a lot of fun to ride.

The Soap Box carts are cute wagons-min

The little buggies weren’t quite soap boxes but sure looked like fun to ride!

In the traditional of all great sporting events, before the Soap Box Derby began we all sang the National Anthem.

Singing the National Anthem before the soap box races in Buffalo SD-min

Before the races started we sang the National Anthem.

Then the kids climbed into their carts on a starting ramp. To avoid congestion and pileups, the kides raced each other in pairs. The winner of each race advanced to the next round in quarter-final, semi-final and final events.

The soap box races begin in Buffalo SD-min

A starting ramp was set up for pairs of kids to race side by side down the hill.

And then they were off down the ramp and onto the road.

And they are off on the soap box races-min

And they’re off!

The race is on at the soap box derby-min

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The kids were pretty competitive and kept a close eye on each other as they urged their buggies to fly down the hill.

Who is winning the soap box race-min

The competition was serious!

Soap box races Labor Day Weekend Buffalo SD-min

The white car takes the lead!!

Even if they didn’t win, they were having a blast with these little soap box cars.

Buffalo SD Labor Day weekend Soap box races_-min

All smiles…this is so much fun!

When they got to the bottom of the hill they got a tow back up from friendly helpers in golf carts.

Getting a tow Soap box races Labor Day Weekend Buffalo SD-min

After each run the kids got a tow back to the top of the hill.

Happy soap box racer gets a tow up the hill-min

It was almost as much fun going up the hill as it was going down!

The whole town came out to watch the races. Some of us sat on the curb and some brought out lawn chairs. Two kids watched from perches in an old tree stump.

Watching the soap box races-min

Two girls got the best seats in the house.

We got a kick out of catching the action as the kids rolled down the hill. There were no pedals or motors. You just rolled off the ramp and hung on and tried to keep the buggy going straight (a few went off the road onto the grass!).

Soap box races Labor Day Weekend Buffalo SD-min

Riding to victory!

Soap box races Buffalo SD Labor Day weekend-min

All the kids had to wear helmets. We really liked this one!

Soap box races Labor Day Weekend Buffalo SD-min

The design of each “soap box” was unique.

Getting a tow Soap box races Labor Day Weekend Buffalo SD-min

I don’t know who was having more fun, the kids or the parents and grandparents!

At the bottom of the hill members of the high school football team caught the riders as they crossed the finish line.

Finish line Soap box races Labor Day Weekend Buffalo SD-min

The finish line was at the bottom of the hill.

The winner is... Soap box races Labor Day Weekend Buffalo SD-min

Members of the football team caught the kids at the bottom.

Up at the top of the hill the Gospel Tabernacle gave out free snow cones. The blue raspberry ones were yummy!

Blue raspberry snow cones at the soap box races in Buffalo SD-min

The free blue raspberry snow cones were going fast.

When the races were over and the trophies had been given out, we wandered over to the rodeo grounds to see what was happening there. Three little kids were practicing their barrel racing skills, and boy were they good!

Young barrel racers in Buffalo SD-min

Over at the rodeo stadium some little kids were barrel racing.

Hair flying on horseback-min

Riding a horse is easy! (If you’re four).

The kids weren’t super fast on their horses, but these little tykes could make their horses do whatever they wanted.

When they first filed into the rodeo grounds all three of them headed in the wrong gate. A helpful mom called to them to go back out and then go in a different gate. I thought there would be a pile-up of hooves and bridles and flicking tales and flaring nostrils. But instead these three kids very neatly backed their horses up out the gate and headed them down to the correct gate, as if it were nothing!

Barrel racer heads to the first barrel on the course-min

A little cowgirl heads towards the first barrel.

Young barrel racer rounds the barrel on her horse-min

…and heads around the first barrel.

Barrel racer takes her horse around the barrel-min

She makes the turn nice and close to the barrel.

Rounding the barrel in a horseback barrel race_-min

And the she picks up speed on the way out of the turn.

On to the next barrel in a horse barrel race-min

On to the next barrel!

We saw the kids afterwards walking three abreast across the field. Mark congratulated them on their riding skills and asked them which one of them was the best rider. All three hands shot up in the air. “Me,” “Me,” Me!”

Then we came across the mom who had been working with them and complimented her on their skills. She grinned and told us they were four, five and six years old. Holy smokes!!

Expert young horseback rider uses one hand on the reins-min

The little kids had a lot of skill — and a little sass too!

What a fun and heartwarming Labor Day celebration this was.

Sunrise in Buffalo South Dakota-min

Sunset in Buffalo, South Dakota, after a great Labor Day weekend!

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Location of Buffalo South Dakota (Google Maps). The Buffalo Trailer Park is at Rte 85 & Three Toes Street.

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