Friday, August 12, 2011

Illinois and Further North

We traveled to Elgin, IL, so Brett could meet up with one of his old Air Force buddies, Randy Arndorfer.  They hadn't seen each other in 35 years........luckily, neither had changed much :)

While there, we stayed in a nice county park outside Elgin.  This is probably one of the closer parks to access Chicago.  There are other campgrounds but they aren't as close or as nice.  There is a train from Elgin to Chicago but it takes over an hour to go downtown.  We didn't get there this time but I have a feeling we'll be back there again.  Brett's buddy, Randy, and his family live in Elk Grove Village which is a suburb of Chicago and we were able to drive there in 35 minutes.  The boys drank many beers, hooted over old times in Germany, discussed their lives since the Air Force, hooted over old times in Turkey, drank more get the picture.  I was the designated driver which is always an experience when driving in Chicago traffic, especially at night. After three tries we finally made it out of the subdivision and our way back.  On Saturday there was more reminiscing and a cookout at our place before final goodbyes.  Everyone had a great time and we definitely plan to do it again, like maybe next year.

While staying in IL we decided to try a real deep dish Chicago-style pizza.  We found a small restaurant in Algonquin, IL, that advertises them.  When we got there it was after 2:00pm and the place was empty.  It took almost an hour (and several rounds of beer) before it was ready.  Wow! Talk about deep dish........that was the best pizza we ever had.

Oh are some scenes of the park in Elgin and the Fox River trail where we stayed (can't get my mind off the pizza now).  

Paul Wolfe County Park

Fox River hiking/biking trail near Elgin

A family out for a swim in the park

Summer in Elgin

From Elgin we drove to Menomonie, WI, and stayed at a small campground right next to the Red Cedar river.  It is the home of the Red Cedar State Trail.  The trail is 37 miles overall and is used for hiking, biking, and jogging.  In the spring and summer months it is limestone surfaced and then groomed for cross-country skiing during the winter.  In June, it hosted the annual Nature Valley Grand Prix Bicycle Festival over five days.  It shares the event with 5 other cities and hosts over 200 professional cyclists and bicycling enthusiasts.


The swollen Red Cedar River
 While there, we took the pups for a walk over several miles of the trail.  As we were hiking they decided they wanted to get into the water for a quick swim.  Lucy, our lab, took the lead with Max chasing behind her.  She found a spot and raced through the weeds to get to the water.  What she didn't realize was that the weeds were hanging out over the river and both of them plunged two feet headfirst down into the churning water.  When they tried to get out of the river they couldn't get enough footing to pull themselves up the bank so Brett had to lean over the side, grab their collars, and pull them back up.  Needless to say, they were more careful after that. 

Boggy fields along the trail

Fields of beautiful wildflowers

More beauty

Part of the trail we walked

Here's another area of the trail that had 60 foot cliffs.

The town of Menomonie is the home of the University of Wisconsin-Stout.  It is an old town with many historical scenes.  The town sits on Lake Menomin which is fed by the Red Cedar River.

Downtown Menomonie, WI

This is the Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts, built in 1889.  Ballet, drama, chorus, folk song, and opera take turns filling the stage. 

Note the filigree at the top which has her name in the sandstone and the date of 1889 showing in the archway above the main door.

The sandstone walls are made of block over a foot deep and the windows are stained glass.

This is Lake Menomin in the town of Menomonie.

We headed north up to Superior, WI, where we planned to reach US-2 which would take us the rest of the way through MN and ND to Montana.  In Superior the temperature was 64 degrees and windy.  I had never seen Lake Superior before and it was quite impressive.  It is definitely a major port.  There was  construction going on along the interstate so everything was a mess and at times down to one lane.  We wound up taking the wrong ramp and had to get off one exit and get back on again in the middle of a construction area.  That was interesting with an RV.........and so was Brett's language......of course it was my fault...........I was taking all the wonderful pictures of Superior at the time!  
Superior, WI

Lots of water and ships

And bridges, of course

Entering the great state of Minnesota.

Duluth at a distance.


Downtown Duluth

Lots of paper companies

We hooked into US-2 south of Superior and drove to Cass Lake, MN, for the night.  This was a Good Sams RV Park where you get a discount if you are a member.  We are.  Brett checked in and was charged $3 more per dog because they consider them 'additional occupants'.  So much for the 10% discount.  Crammed in parking spots, a zillion rules, way too many people, and the pups weren't even allowed to walk down near the lake!  We only spent one night in their 'resort' and I completed a rating of the park on the RV Park Reviews website.  How do you think they did?  :)

Cass Lake - When we got there it was very windy and cool

Choppy waters

Sunset over Cass Lake

And now for the trivia buffs:
What famous actress was born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota?

Judy Garland!  For you youngsters out there........she was the actress who played Dorothy in the classic, 'The Wizard of Oz'.

Peace to all !  
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