Sunday, October 2, 2011

Lake Itasca to Little Falls

Lake Itasca MN to Little Falls MN
Friday September 30, 2011

The sun was shining as we left Lake Itasca State Park – the first morning we have not had rain since we left North Carolina…a real treat!  The temperature got down to 40 in the night but we were warm and toasty in the Sprinter. I remembered how to make the cheese and bacon omelets in the microwave so we had a good breakfast; then dug out our trusty checklist – checked it and were on our way. Having left the TN flag up, drawers unlatched, forgotten to switch the electric for the refrigerator and lost more than one door mat – we had to have a list!  Now we don’t forget anything when we remember the checklist!  

The Great River Road signs are posted along the roads to follow the Mississippi south. Today we were on 4 lane state highways, 2 lane paved county and state roads and 2 lane graded dirt roads. The roads that most closely follow the river are selected as part of the Great River Road (GRR). Relying of Mr. Brit for several years – we now have to rely on Jane to catch the road changes. Only missed one or two turns today and we were able to catch the GRR again within a few miles. 

Here is river as it leaves Lake Itasca Park.
Look Closely there is the Mississippi as just a stream behind the trees

Our first town was Bemidji where we stopped to mail Dan’s post card and take photos with Paul Bunyan and his blue ox. The river is not large more like an East TN stream or creek. There are numerous lakes and all seem to have numerous “resorts” down side roads.   

 Ben comes to the knee of Paul!
We followed mostly two lane paved and very well graded unpaved roads for about 100 miles to the next fairly large town of Grand Rapids. Grand Rapids claim to fame is to have been the home town of Judy Garland. We passed that museum by and tracked down Pasties Plus for lunch. Pasties are pot pie filling sealed up in crust and baked. They began in England, came to the US and Canada with immigrants. They were a way for workers to take lunch easily into mines or on other jobs. This establishment was noted on Virtual Tourist web-site as having the best pasties in northern Minnesota so since it was lunch time - why not eat one!  They were very good but we certainly would have missed it if we had not been looking. We plan to eat as little “chain restaurant” food as possible on this trip and try out local dishes.  The trays of freshly baked pasties greeted us at the door!   

 Pasties greeted us at the door!
Our clean plates - We ate at the only table in the place.

 Leaving Grand Rapids we again followed small state and county roads south through Brainerd to Little Falls where we had a reservation at Charles Lindbergh State Park for the night.Most of the farms along the river were raising cattle and had corn and hay as their main crops. Most of the farmers were busy in some aspect of harvesting. The type of hay bales is always interesting. All the farms in MN seem to be using round bales.  We were amazed at the number some of the farms were stacking up for winter. In one location we saw stacks 9 bales wide and 20 or 30 in length.  One house we passed had wood stacked up against their house as high as to the second story – all homes had wood stacked somewhere.  Obviously they have a long cold winter.

Businesses were much as seen anywhere – Walmarts, Target, Burger King, Applebees – etc. but you had some things we never or seldom see in the south – meat smokers, lots of wood burning stoves, curling rinks, and of course much more farm machinery than we see in our part of the country.  Many of the businesses had Scandinavian names and in one county Mick Finn was running for Sec/Treas. We are really not sure what he was running sec/treas of but he had hundreds of hand lettered signs posted throughout the area! 

After making all those signs he deserves to win!!  Funny we did not see any opposition signs.
We did not have a destination in the GPS most of the day only when looking for something special but it was running and once it showed us traveling along the GRR with the river right beside us…it was a peaceful, restful and beautiful day.  
  Mississippi somewhere in rural MN

You can see how closely our road follows the river.

We arrived at Charles Lindbergh State Park about 4:00 and found our campsite waiting.  The Lindbergh Home is only open Memorial Day to Labor Day but we will look around outside tomorrow morning and take one of the park trails along the Mississippi. The weather is nice – in the 60’s with no wind and lots of sunshine – hope it stays this way tomorrow.

 Jane took a 1 1/2 mile walk around the campground. All the electric sites are full and about half the non-electric sites filled. The leaves are falling and walking in crunching leaves is really fun. Not so sure Ben would agree the leaves are fun when he is trying to back into a campsite and can’t tell where the pavement is!  Dinner, a shower, reading and blog writing and another good nights sleep is ahead! 

One casualty of the day was an awful mess in Jane’s cosmetic kit.  Never had any problem with it before but a small crème rinse came open and made a huge mess of everything!  Took everything out – washed and dried all the other contents – then washed the kit itself and it will hopefully be dry by morning.  If this is the worst problem we have it will be a great trip!

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