This was the second year in which we spent several months wandering as gypsies in our 5th-wheel trailer. Our scheduling this year was to attend Al's 50th year high school reunion, reunite with Gail's college roommate, attend a five-class reunion of Gail's grade school, and participate in our annual reunion with the clan of former co-workers at the University of Minnesota.

Like last year we began with a short excursion to the Washington DC/Capitol KOA in Millersville, MD, to check out the equipment and our skills after an idle winter. Doug and his family visited us there for dinner and for bouncing on the neat giant pillow on the playground.

We left home on June 27 and travelled north to Jersey City. Not exactly a wilderness area, but we wanted to visit with CJ in Brooklyn before we headed west. The closest RV park to Brooklyn is the Liberty Harbor RV Park and Marina in Jersey City. It has a great location, just five blocks from a Port Authority station for the train to the World Trade Center. The location of our camping site wasn't quite so good. It had a light pole smack in the middle of the entrance to the site. With a lot wiggling back and forth, we managed to get the Moving House in place without hitting the Class B camper on one side or the travel trailer on the other side, and without bumping the bicycles on the rack of the RV behind us.

We had a good time visiting CJ. We saw a rehearsal by CJ and three other dancers for a performance coming up on July 15. We toured Lower Manhattan, seeing Battery Park and Castle Clinton there, the financial district and Zuccotti Park and other sites important to the Occupy movement. We heard a concert by Fishbone, and looked at lots of art on the 5th floor of the Brooklyn Museum, where there was a special exhibit of art by Keith Haring.

The peak temperatures were uncomfortably near 100 while we were in New York. Good for having air conditioning in the Moving House and for visiting the Zeppelin Hall Beer Garden near our campground.

Our Ford F-250 truck and Copper Canyon 5th wheel trailer 
               are parked behind a light pole in the Liberty Harbor RV Park. 
               The ground is covered with asphalt and gravel. Campers are 
               very close together side-by-side and back to back. The
               sky is blue with a few puffy white clouds.

CJ and Gail on the Promenade in Brooklyn

The Sphere, a sculpture damaged on Sept 11, 2001,
with the New World Trade Center towers rising in the background

From New York, we headed west, spending one night in mid Pennsylvania and then stopping near Cleveland, Ohio, to see the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and to recover from the fast pace of life in New York.

Sign welcoming visitors to the National Park with white lettering on a brown background.

This park had been created in 1974. We had driven across it for decades and never noticed it was there until last year. The heart of the park is the Cuyahoga River and the Towpath Trail paralleling it. The towpath had been part of the Ohio & Erie Canal. Branching off the Towpath Trail are trails and roads to various attractions to see and experience. As a new and relatively urban park, it is rather amorphous and at first we had trouble locating it.

We hiked trails on two days. We saw peregrine falcons, a red-tailed hawk, a great blue heron rookery, painted turtles, a muskrat, wood ducks, wood swallows, frogs and other birds and wild life. It was relaxing.

Gail on the Towpath Trail north of the Boston Store Visitor Center

A peregrine falcon on a bridge support
near mile 177 of the Ohio Turnpike

Brandywine Falls
60 feet high, but with only a trickle of water

After two days at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, we headed north. After an overnight stop in the Michigan's Lower Peninsula, we reached our next destination, the Seney National Wildlife Refuge at Germfask in the Upper Peninsula. The refuge was created in 1935 by Franklin Roosevelt and built by the Civilian Conservation Corp. It provides a vast area of managed wetlands and highland forests where migrating birds have a safe harbor and where animals like otters, beaver and resident birds can thrive. Seney has a large population of trumpeter swans, first introduced here in the early 1990s. The staff here pioneered techniques in rearing sandhill cranes that were used to help bring whooping cranes back from the edge of extinction.

We visited Seney before in May 2005. This time we enjoyed seeing the old sights and hiking new trails. We saw the swans, loons, ospreys and an eagle. We also saw otters and a beaver. Not so pleasantly, black flies attacked us so we bought nets to fit over our hats to protect our heads from them.

Nature trail at the wildlife refuge

A pair of trumpeter swans

Loon seen in the evening

Gail wearing one of our anti-fly nets

From Seney, we headed to Bewabic State Park in Michigan's Iron County, where we stayed for three weeks.

Joey, our grandson, had sent us Flat Stanley, the hero of a series of books, during the school year. He asked us to take photos of Flat Stanley where we lived and send the pictures for him to share with his class. We did, and we also took Flat Stanley to Germany and on this trip. While Flat Stanley was getting his picture taken at Bewabic Park, a woman driving past stopped to talk with us because her daughter had shouted out, "There's Flat Stanley!"

While in Iron County, we had many activities. We swam in the park, hiked in the forests, toured the County Courthouse and museums, kayaked on the Michigamme River, attended performances by the folk song duo White Water, and of the musical "Always ... Patsy Kline" in the building where Al attended high school, ate and drank at a Wine and Cheese benefit for the Iron County Historical Museum, and more. Back at the park we visited the beach, listened to the liquid notes of the hermit thrushes and read mysteries. Lacking a newspaper, we often got our news from Morning Edition on WNMU FM 90.1.

We scheduled this time in Michigan in order to attend Al's 50th anniversary high school reunion. We participated in a get together at Ottawa Lake, a tour of the Iron County museum led by classmate Larry and the banquet at Alice's Restaurant (no, not the one in the song!). Al really enjoyed meeting and talking with classmates and friends, some of whom he had not seen in 50 years.

During the week following the reunion Al gave a presentation on black holes, dark matter and dark energy at the museum. It was attended by more than 60 people.

Flat Stanley (and Al) at the entrance to Bewabic State Park

Al at the Iron County Courthouse in Crystal Falls, MI

Gail in her kayak on the Michigamme River

Raspberries on a trail near Scott Lake

Al with some of his classmates at Ottawa Lake
Photo courtesy of Dennis Kried

After Iron County, we headed west to the north shore region of Minnesota, where we got together with Jane, who was Gail's college roommate and the bride's maid at our wedding 38 years earlier, and Jane's sister-in-law Pat. With them we visited three of Minnesota's state parks by Lake Superior - Gooseberry Falls, Tettegouche and Temperance River. Al looked for gooseberries in Gooseberry Falls State Park, but only found one bush. We did find a number of bushes of thimbleberries, and shared their sweet and tart fruit with Jane and Pat. The scenery in these parks was terrific and the hiking trails very enjoyable.

Gail, Pat and Jane at High Falls in Tettegouche State Park

Some thimbleberries in Gooseberry Falls State Park

Lower gorge and some falls on the Temperance River

Waves breaking on the rocky shore near the mouth of the Cross River

Next we went to happy land, the Happy Land RV Park in Thunder Bay, Ontario, that is. We chose to visit Thunder Bay because Gail's father had been born here and spent his first three years here. Thanks to the old city directories in the public library, we learned a little about where he lived. We were able to drive the location of the last place where he lived on Dease Street, but there was nothing there now but a two-car garage. The street there was narrow, about the width of an alley.

We also enjoyed ourselves visiting the Fort William Historical Park, Kakabeka Falls and Mount McKay. The Historical Park is a re-creation of the 1815 fur trading center with re-enactments of daily chores and special events. We ate Indian bread, helped paddle a birch-bark trading canoe on the Kaministiquia River and watched the ceremony for the arrival of a trading party from the interior among other things.

The Kakabeka Falls on the Kaministiquia River is about 130 feet high, and an impressive amount of water flows over it. The flow would be even greater, but much water is diverted upstream to run a hydro-electric plant. Gail and I hiked over 8 kilometers of trails in the park, and saw a bald eagle.

The Information Center on the border

“Voyageurs” approaching Fort William

Kakabeka Falls from a distance

Us at Kakabeka Falls

Cliffs on Mount McKay
Mount McKay is a mesa located across the Kaministiquia River south of Thunder Bay. It stands about 900 feet above the level of Lake Superior. There is an observation site maintained by the Ojibawa people about halfway up. We drove to observation site and then climbed the “easy” trail to the summit off to the side of these cliffs. The most of the trail was reasonable, but during the last 100 feet or so, we scrambled up a very steep slope over large boulders. The view was great.

Kayaking on Thunder Lake
We chose Kenora, Ontario, as our next destination because Al's father had been born there. Heading west toward Kenora, we stopped for a day at Aaron Provincial Park near Dryden. We hiked most of the park's trails and roads, paddled kayaks on Thunder Lake, and saw one loon and many myrtle warblers. We also tasted a bunchberry. We'd often seen these red berries on the forest floor, but had assumed they were poisonous. They are not, but have a very mild flavor.

The drive along the TransCanada Highway, Hwy 17, was pleasant. Although it is the principal east-west road in Canada, it is mostly two lane with little traffic and with passing lanes every 15 kilometers or so (up here we speak in kilometers, not miles). Between the little settlement of Vermillion Falls and Kenora, it seemed that every turn in the road revealed a new lake, always with rocky shores and often overlooked by cliffs.

The clerk at the campground where we are stayed in Kenora gave us a site where we could have WiFi access. Unfortunately, this required that Al back the trailer onto a narrow platform. While trying to get the trailer aligned on the platform he neglected to watch where the truck was going. Oops! He lost the rear tire of the truck off the edge of the platform. A host of interested men soon gathered. One had a 20-ton jack and claimed to have gotten snowplows out similar situations. It turns out that after a lot of effort, his technique worked and we were back on solid ground with no injuries to anyone. Whew!

Our visit got better from there. Kenora is on the shore of Lake of the Woods. Lake of the Woods is 68 miles long and 59 miles wide, but it is filled with large peninsulas and more than 14,500 islands. It would be easy to go out on the lake and get lost. We took a cruise on the MS Kenora out among the islands and the captain did not let us get lost. We saw islands, cottages, powerboats, float planes, kayaks and even paddle boards, but surprisingly no sailboats.

On the shore, we saw buildings that Al's grandfather passed through when he was here and we visited the cemetery where Al's great-grandmother is buried.

While we were there, one of the big items on the regional radio news was about a man whose foot was bitten by a 40-inch muskellunge (muskie). The man was dangling his feet in the water off a dock in the park where we were camping when the fish came along. The man jerked his foot up and lifted the fish a foot out of the water, but then it got away.


1899 train station where Al's grandfather arrived in Kenora in 1909

Gail on the MS Kenora with some of the 14,500 islands behind her

Kenora seen from the Lake of the Woods

From Kenora we headed south, crossing the border to International Falls, MN, and nearly hitting a bald eagle that had been feasting on road kill by The King's Highway 71. Our goal was to see some of Voyageurs National Park.

Boosters of travelling by RV talk about how you can take your time, stop where you want, see the country at your leisure. We did that. If we wanted, we'd camp somewhere that was not on the original plan or we'd extend our stay somewhere by a day or two. But the reality is that during the camping season, the campgrounds fill up on weekends and it may be difficult to find somewhere to stay if you have not made reservations long in advance.

We ran into that situation with our visit to Voyageurs National Park. We had to camp in a small campground in the city rather than the lakeside resort we had hoped for. But this turned out well. We had easy access to supermarkets and to the library where we could get onto the internet. We were close to the Park's Rainy Lake Visitor Center where we met a stuffed moose and took a cruise on Rainy Lake where we saw many bald eagles. And we still could get to the trails that we like to hike.

Gail with the only moose we've seen in decades -

Rainy Lake has rocky islands like Lake of the Woods
just not nearly as many

One of the eagles seen during our cruise on Rainy Lake

Kabetogama Lake seen from the Blind Ash Bay Trail

Willow River falls. You can see people wading on a ledge
halfway up the left side of the photograph.
From International Falls, we headed further south, stopping at the Willow River State Park near Hudson, Wisconsin. There we enjoyed another waterfall. We also visited with Gail's brother Guy and Guy's family and with Gail's former boss Bill and Bill's wife Julie.

The third pillar of our trip was the reunion of five classes from the Genoa City School. We camped at the Happy Acres Kampground, which is relatively near to Genoa City and has internet access. (Internet access was important to us for planning future travel and for keeping in touch with family.)

The reunion covered two days, beginning with a pizza meal Saturday afternoon, followed by an evening social the same day and by a picnic on Sunday. It rained on Sunday but we were in a shelter and nobody's spirits were dampened. Everyone had lots of questions and stories to share.

In addition to the reunion, we had time to hike in the Richard Bong State Recreation Area (named after a WW2 flying ace) and in the Kettle Morraine State Forest - South.

Genoa City in southeastern Wisconsin

Gail with some of her 1959 classmates

A red-tailed hawk in the Bong State Recreation Area

From Genoa City, we moved to Madison, WI. Many things happen in Madison and we took advantage of them. We hiked in nearby state and county parks, and in University of Wisconsin's Arboretum. We helped to recover usable food to be distributed to food banks at Second Harvest. We helped to weed and plant in the Arboretum, hoping that during our weeding we weren't pulling the last specimen of some endangered plant.

We laughed at a performance by comedienne Paula Poundstone, a regular panelist on Wait Wait… Don't Tell Me!. We visited the International Crane Foundation, where they are helping save endangered crane populations, including North America's whooping crane. We heard a concert by the Madison Symphony in the Overture Center, sitting in the second row thanks for our friend Maija's connections. We enjoyed food, music and dance at a Thai Festival. We alternatively were puzzled, amused and impressed at a performance of 44 Plays for 44 Presidents.

We attended the Fighting Bob Fest, where we heard speeches by environmentalist Bill McKibben, former TV host Phil Donahue and Green presidential candidate Jill Stein. Mckibben convinced us that one of our goals should be to be arrested protesting against the energy companies and lawmakers who are acting in such a way as to lead to climate change.

We got our news here from Morning Edition on WERN FM 88.7.

Maija and Gail under the bridge in
Wisconsin's Natural Bridge State Park

Excavations provided evidence that this rock shelter
at Natural Bridge State Park was inhabited by humans 12,000 years ago

Flat Stanley (and Gail) at the Wisconsin State Capitol

Saturday morning farmers market in Madison
A few of the booths and some of the crowds
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Gail and Susan, our supervisor, pulling weeds
in the Arboretum

Two Whooping Cranes at the
International Crane Foundation near Baraboo, WI
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Image of the gilt Thai Pavilion in its
reflection pool at Olbrich Park, Madison, WI

Thai dancers with drums at the Thai Pavilion
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The last pillar of our trip was the weekend get together with the MinnClan. It was during the plague of the boxelder bugs. We gathered at the Cooksville Farmhouse Inn in historic, though small, Cooksville, Wisconsin. Bob and Ann came from St. Louis, Bill and Julie from St. Paul, Bob and Lolly from Shawano, WI, Maija from Madison and we from our temporary location at the Lake Farm Park in Dane County. Local resident Larry and our host Martha gave us a tour of the mid 19th century buildings in Cooksville. Some of us attended a live broadcast of Michael Feldman's Whad'ya Know in Madison and others attended a performance of Ole and Lena's Wedding in Stoughton. We enjoyed a campfire Saturday evening and tried to remember songs to sing around it. And, of course, we ate and drank well.

Larry and Martha lead the MinnClaners on a tour of
buildings in the historic district of Cooksville

Bob, Gail, Julie and Ann at Saturday night's campfire
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On the last weekend of our travels, the refrigerator of the Moving House stopped working. Al suspects it had something to do with the plague of boxelder bugs. All the same, it was time to turn towards our Maryland home and prepare to celebrate granddaughter Abby's second birthday!

In our journey, we were out for 98 days during which we pulled our Moving House nearly 3,940 miles and drove our truck an additional 2,570 miles in local travel. We visited two national parks and fourteen state and provincial parks. We hiked many miles of trails, some wide and paved, others partially hidden among bushes and blackberry thorns.

It was good to arrive at our home with its dishwasher and compost barrel, but we miss the chatter of the sandhill cranes flying overhead, the lonesome-sounding calls of the loon in the morning and the liquid calls of the hermit thrushes. We also miss all the people we visited with during the trip.