Final Post…..

Trip Summary

Back home!  Here are some trip statistics:

    • Number of Days:    44 (July 29 – Sep 11)
    • Number of States Visited:    15
    • Number of New States:      11
    • Miles travelled:   5,500 (approx.)
    • Nights Camping:  14
    • Nights Hotel:  8
    • Nights AirBnB : 22 (3 weeks in Colorado Springs)
    • Number of Trump signs seen:   Too many (mostly in the UP Michigan)
    • Number of  Biden signs seen:   Not enough, not nearly enough.
    • Number of semis that we sat behind while they took forever to pass another semi:   9 million (approx.)
Our new states

Our  new states from this trip ….

    • S. Dakota
    • N. Dakota
    • Minnesota
    • Wisconsin
    • Michigan
    • Illinois
    • Indiana
    • Ohio (Bert)
    • W. Virginia
    • Tennessee
    • Kentucky
    • Missouri

Heading Home


We picked up our final new state the first night, camping at Meeman-Shelby State Park just outside of Memphis. Of course we had to swing through Memphis to see Graceland.

Elvis wasn’t home.

We were only there one afternoon (on Wednesday, Martini Night!). We set up camp and did a quick hike. The park is near the Mississippi but we couldn’t see it from the campground.

Our Tennessee camp
Tennessee walking…

And there was no cell coverage anywhere in the park but they leave the wifi on at the Ranger Station after hours so we took our camp chairs, martinis and laptop and set up outside to zoom for Martini Night. Resourceful!


For out last night before the final push back to Houston we stopped at a campground just west of Little Rock, where the Ouachita Trail starts (or ends).  It was a lot warmer than when we were here last – close to 90 degrees.

Returning to the scene of the crime (sans Emerson).

After setting up our camp we decided to climb Pinnacle Peak, which we thought would be an easy hike. It wasn’t.

Pinnacle Peak hike.
Pinnacle Peak from the trail

We started at the visitor center and hiked the first mile of the Ouachita Trail to get to the Pinnacle East trail. The last 500′ of elevation of the climb was a steep, steep rock scramble.  When we got to the top we talked to some people who had come up the west side and said it was not bad so, even though it meant circling the base of the mountain, we went down the west side. It was a good call, even though it added three miles or so, it was much nicer.

Two hot, tired, puppies on the top of Pinnacle Peak.
Panorama from the top.

The campground was nice but we are definitely back in the south. It was still 80 degrees when the sun went down and it was well after midnight before it was cool enough (low 70’s) to sleep comfortably. But we were right on the Arkansas river and it was very pretty.

View from our camp


St Louis

Leaving the wilds of W. Virginia we headed back west on a long travel day to get to St Louis.  Our hotel was on the west side of St Louis, about 7 miles due west of the famous arch and right next to a huge park.

Our hotel location

Our hotel was a quirky, English-styled inn with themed rooms (we stayed in the W. H. Auden room right across from the Sherlock Holmes room).

View from boat.

Besides bagging Missouri and seeing the arch, we were in St Louis to visit our good friend Miriam who left Houston nearly 15 years ago.

We spent the afternoon of our first day with Miriam who took us on a tour of downtown St Louis. We visited the arch (but did not go inside because Covid-19) and then took a boat ride on the Mississippi (all outside).

Statue of Dred and Harriet Scott, who filed for their freedom at this courthouse in 1846.
Some guy name Pulitzer started a paper here.

We spent our last day in Forest Park, visiting the St Louis art museum (inside but there were very few people) and renting a paddle boat.

St Lous Art Museum (from the paddle boat)
Boaters. Probably in a Trump parade.

And then, because all this civilization was tiring, we headed out on the road. Next stop …. Tennessee.

West Virginia

Beech Fork State Park is a small state park located in far western W. Virginia. It contains the end of the long, man-made, Beech Fork Lake.

Our view, looking west (mostly).

Our camp site was right on the lake with easy access for our kayak. We were surrounded by the usual mega-motor homes but we had a pretty big spot and it was quite nice. One of our neighbors came over to talk and told Roberta that he envied our “simple setup”.

View from the kayak

I went kayaking after we got set up. Roberta saw I was having fun so she had a go also.

Saw this deer swimming in the lake near the far shore.
The REAL kayaker

The next day we hiked the only real trail in the park, the Overlook Trail. Which turned out not to have much of an overlook, but it was fun and we made a friend.

Our W. Virginia hiking buddy.

Even though we are quite a bit further south now, the evenings were quite pleasant (in the 60’s) and we had no trouble sleeping but we no longer needed wool caps in the morning.

Happy camper enjoys lousy cell service.
Sunset from our camp.

Four States in Two Days

Leaving Chicago…. Heading East

We had planned to primitive camp somewhere in Ohio after leaving Chicago but, since the hotel in Chicago did not have a laundry service, we opted for a hotel in Batesville, Indiana with a guest laundry. This gave us new state #1, Indiana.

There wasn’t much in Batesville (and we were pretty busy doing laundry) but the next morning we drove 3 miles to Oldenburg, a picturesque little town with a decidedly German feel (all the signs were in English and German).

We tried…

We bagged our second state the next morning when we hit Cincinatti and stopped to stroll around down by the Ohio River.

The enemy!
Cute girl with Cincinnati in the background.
The Ohio River. Bigger than I imagined.
Two lost Texans.

And then back on the road, heading east, next stop: Ashland, Kentucky.  We were driving right by Ashland (or nearly by) and decided to stop and take a few pictures of Andrew Dansby’s boyhood home, which gave us our third new state.

In front of an iconic tourist shrine, Andrew Dansby’s boyhood home.

After Ashland it was a short drive to  our home for the next two nights, Beech Fork State Park near Huntington, W. Virginia and our fourth state!

Beech Fork State Park, W. Virginia. Our new home.



Chicago and…. showers!

So after 7 days of camping we hit Chicago after traveling the entire length of the eastern side of Lake Michigan and a hotel (21C) and showers! The room was nice and the art was cool but this was the first day they were open and they had no room service or ice. No ice. And no guest laundry! Oh well… this caused a change of plans …. more on that later.

John Hancock Tower

Our first stop on our walking tour of Chicago was the water tower, one of the only structures to survive the famous fire.

The Water Tower with the John Hancock building in the background.

We noticed the Hancock Tower as we were taking pictures of the water tower and walked over to take a look. Turns out they have a viewing level on the 94th floor and, since it had just opened and there was no one there, …..

Looking north from the 94th floor of the John Hancock building.
… and looking south.
And we were the only people there.
So we decided to have “breakfast”.
The Navy Pier

After the Hancock building we headed south on the “magnificent mile” and ended by walking east along the Chicago River to the Navy Pier. Most people we saw were wearing masks, at least indoors.

Chicago from the end of the Navy Pier
Tourists on the Navy Pier

And then lunch at a beer garden on the river (with outside seating!).  We have been very careful wearing masks when we are around other people and the city is relatively uncrowded.

Just …no.
The Bean
The bean.

We ended our walk in Millennium Park with Chicago’s famous “Bean” (it’s actually called The Cloud Gate). It’s quite a bit bigger than the one in Houston. And it’s on its side.

The outdoor theater in Millennium Park

We also saw the Crown Fountain, an interactive work of public art and video sculpture which probably is more impressive at night.

The Crown Fountain – he blinks.
21C Hotel Art

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the art exhibits in our hotel.  21C hotels only have art from the 21st century. Here is a sampling of the art in our hotel….


Cheboygan, baby!!!

Heading further east we left the UP via the bridge over the Straits of Mackinac (which connect Lake Michigan to Lake Huron) into “downstate” Michigan.

Mackinac Straits bridge
Cheboygan State Park and Lake Huron

We arrived at our campsite around noon, set up camp and then went for a hike across the small peninsula that makes up the park to Lake Huron (the campground is on a small protected bay off the lake).

Hiking to the beach.
Lake Huron!
Another lovely beach

This makes our third Great Lake! When we got back to camp I took the kayak out for a spin in our little bay.

Path from our camp to the bay.
That man needs a shave!
Bobbing on the waves.

We were only here for one night which was probably good since the campsites were very close together and we could here at least one person snoring.

Getting inventive for grilling our fake-brats.
One last sunset….

Another Day, Another Great Lake…

The UP (Upper Peninsula)

Leaving Wisconsin behind we headed east toward  the western edge of Lake Michigan in that funny part of Michigan that is isolated from the rest of the state.  This is a very conservative area, we saw tons of Trump signs.

It was still raining as we neared so we stopped at a Walmart and bought (the last!) small pavilion tent which made our evening much nicer.

Our little dry spot for dinner.

The next morning dawned sunny and dry so we flipped our tent over to dry.

Drying out in the sun.
Peninsula Point

Our campground was located on a peninsula that sticks out into Lake Michigan with Little Bay de Noc on the west and Big Bay de Noc on the east. “Noc” was a descriptive term for the local Indians. Our first day we drove out to the end of the peninsula where there is an old lighthouse.

Windy (but not raining!) at the point.
The Peninsula Point Lighthouse
Now that would be a tough flight!

This turned out to be one of our favorite campsites. It was big, isolated and we had our own little forest that bordered on the lake. Dinner was veggie-burgers on the grill.

The chef works with limited tools….
A pretty sunset….
Lake view just down from our campsite

Bay de Noc Grand Island National Heritage Trail

The next day we did a short (5-6 miles) section on the Bay de Noc Trail. The trail follows an old 40 mile Indian portage trail between lakes Michigan and Superior.

Hiking girl!

The  back to the campground for another beautiful sunset.

Another lovely sunset on Lake Michigan
Last night on Lake Michigan


Deluxe Camping in Wisconsin

We arrived at our reserved site near Sand Bay on Lake Superior on the afternoon of Tuesday, Aug 25 for a three night stay.  This is a private campsite hosted by the land owner and it was very nice. We had our own composting toilet, cold water shower and a tent/cabin with a bed.

Our home for three nights.

We were met at the end of the paved road by Luke on an ATV. We bumped along behind him on a jeep track for 1/2 mile to our parking spot (with a view of Lake Superior). Our tent was another quarter mile 0f walking  but Luke took our coolers so we made it in one trip. 

Our little tent/cabin even had a covered patio!
Bayfield and Madeline Island

Our first full day in Wisconsin was spent exploring Bayfield, looking for a wifi hotspot so we could join Martini Night! Fortunately the Bayfield Inn had outdoor seating and decent wifi.

The sister ferry headed the other way.

With the afternoon to kill before martinis we hopped the ferry to Madeline Island (see map above, the largest of the Apostle Islands) and spent a few hours sightseeing.

Sign on a very inviting bar on Madeline Island
This was in someones backyard. It is some kind of nightmare giant moose. I think.
Welcoming committee in Bayfield. Madeline Island is in the background.

We arrived back in Bayfield in time to score a good outdoor table for our Martini Night Zoomathon. Things were going well until the thunderstorm hit and they closed the bar …. and kicked us out.


The next day (Thursday) we visited another little beach town, Cornucopia. The weather was much nicer and we ended up doing a 4 mile trail hike to a lake overlook.

After 2 miles… Lake Superior!

The hike takes you to a favorite kayaking spot with caves though we were seeing it from a different angle.

Kayaker near the caves below us.
One of the caves we could see.

After the hike we had lunch on the beach (smoked whitefish from a local shop).

On the beach near Cornucopia, WI

And swimming… or wading at least. One little boy walked up to the water, put his foot in and told his mother “’s so warm!” Warm being 60 degrees.  But you can sit out without melting in the sun.

Our final Wisconsin sunset….

We awoke the next morning, after that beautiful sunny day, to a pouring rain. We got totally soaked packing up the car. Hopefully the weather will be better in Michigan!

From the Badlands to …. Wisconsin

Fargo, ND

We left the Badlands a day earlier than we had planned because of the searing heat, stopping for a night in Watertown, SD before arriving in Fargo, ND (another state bagged!). And of course, Fargo’s claim to fame is the movie of the same name. And the star of the movie is the…. wood chipper!

The actual wood chipper from “Fargo”

The chipper is so famous they have a stunt double outside the welcome center in case you arrive when they are closed and still need that chipper shot.

So popular they need a “stunt double” wood chipper!
Fargo tourists!

We only spent a day in Fargo but discovered that it is on the state line with Minnesota. Who knew?

Brainerd, MN and The Mississippi

Tracking east from Fargo we immediately entered Minnesota and, of course, had to side track south to Brainerd for …. Paul Bunyan!

Paul Bunyan and friend.

And, surprise of surprises, we passed over the Mississippi river just a 100 miles or so from the headwaters …. she’s a lot smaller up here.

Long ways from New Orleans!
A much smaller Mississippi.

Next stop…. Wisconsin!