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.
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.
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.
After setting up our camp we decided to climb Pinnacle Peak, which we thought would be an easy hike. It wasn’t.
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.
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.
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 was a quirky, English-styled inn with themed rooms (we stayed in the W. H. Auden room right across from the Sherlock Holmes room).
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).
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.
And then, because all this civilization was tiring, we headed out on the road. Next stop …. Tennessee.
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 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”.
I went kayaking after we got set up. Roberta saw I was having fun so she had a go also.
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.
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.
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 bagged our second state the next morning when we hit Cincinatti and stopped to stroll around down by the Ohio River.
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.
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!
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.
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, …..
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.
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.
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.
We also saw the Crown Fountain, an interactive work of public art and video sculpture which probably is more impressive at night.
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….
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.
The next morning dawned sunny and dry so we flipped our tent over to dry.
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.
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.
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.
The back to the campground for another beautiful sunset.
We arrived at our http://hipcamp.com 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The hike takes you to a favorite kayaking spot with caves though we were seeing it from a different angle.
After the hike we had lunch on the beach (smoked whitefish from a local shop).
And swimming… or wading at least. One little boy walked up to the water, put his foot in and told his mother “..it’s so warm!” Warm being 60 degrees. But you can sit out without melting in the sun.
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!
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 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.
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!
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.