SMILES AND SETBACKS IN MINNESOTA AND NORTH DAKOTA

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If the weather wasn’t cooperating in Minneapolis, it more than made up for itself as we traveled north. Our destination was to stop north of Brainerd, MN for a few days to meet up with some wonderful friends we met while RVing in Georgia a few years ago.

There are many things to love about RVing, and we especially love random roadside discoveries. As we travel, we use apps like Roadtrippers and Roadside America to help us find offbeat roadside attractions. But sometimes we stumble upon something fun by complete accident.

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As we drove up Highway 371, we saw a beacon of clutter on our right. It was called Treasure City – a colorful building surrounded by flags, lawn ornaments, fireworks, and photo opportunities to take pictures like pirates and surfers.

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These are the kind of signs we like to see!

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It was a tourist trap that our boys were happy to fall into after a few hours of driving. Brent and I weren’t exactly reluctant. How can you not smile in a place where tchotchkes dangle from the ceiling and jackalopes sit in rows on tables?

Later that evening we pulled into the driveway of our friends Chris and Stephanie. RVing has given us more gifts and friendship than we ever imagined.

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Chris and Stephanie run a chimney care company which allows them the opportunity to find their AWAY during the slow season. Each year they choose to #GoRVing in their travel trailer to create memories and deepen relationships with their two young boys.

Two years ago they had decided to escape the Minnesota cold to #GoRVing in Florida. Lucky for us, they had decided to stop at Skidaway Island near Savannah, Georgia where we were staying. Our friendship began when we said hi on a walk around the campground. That evening we shared a meal while our boys played. Little did we know that the foundations of a lasting friendship were being laid.

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The following fall they were surprised when we called them up as were passing through Minnesota. We made plans to park our RV for a night at their house, but ended up staying for five because we were having so much fun.

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The following winter our families camped and snowboarded together in Summit County Colorado. Finally in the spring, we met up one more time in Colorado Springs before they headed home.

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It has been over a year since we last saw them and we were beyond excited as we pulled the RV in their driveway and were greeted with hugs and smiles.

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Over the next few days we enjoyed sharing meals and catching up on our travels. A few months prior, Chris and Stephanie had taken their annual two-month long RV trip down to Florida and had stopped to volunteer for 10 days at a camp in Tennessee. They told us all about their adventure.

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Once residents of Alaska, they sat down with us to share all their favorite places. Our excitement grew as they told us about the places like Denali and the Kenai Peninsula. It won’t be long before we will be seeing these places for ourselves!

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Our stay ended much too soon and before long we were taking our group picture and saying our “see ya laters” as we hit the road again and headed up to Lake Itasca.

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Lake Itasca is where the mighty Mississippi River waters begin their 2,552-mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico.

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Brent and Thing 2 wanted to “walk across the Mississippi,” the fourth longest river in the world.

Up to this point on our trip the “sailing has been smooth.” Our campsites have been amazing and we haven’t had so much as a flat tire. I suppose we were bound to have a mishap of some sort sooner or later.

The sky was gray and cloudy the afternoon we left Lake Itasca. In the distance, we could see thunderstorms as we crossed the northwestern plains of Minnesota. Our plan was to stop at a campground in East Grand Forks on the border of Minnesota and North Dakota to watch some Fourth of July fireworks.

The problem was we had waited until the last minute to plan and didn’t book a campsite for the weekend. Normally this isn’t a big deal but seeing it was a holiday weekend, the only spots available were “first come first serve.” We were hoping there would be a spot left when we arrived.

We were focused on getting to our destination, when someone pulled up next to us waving and yelling, “Your bikes! Your bikes!”

I looked in the rearview mirror and was horrified to see our bikes dragging along and bouncing wildly behind us. As quick as possible, we found a place to pull over to assess the damage.

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Apparently the weld on our bike rack had given. Thankfully Brent had taken the extra step of adding a nylon safety strap so all four bikes didn’t fully detach and potentially cause an accident. Unfortunately, two of the bikes were complete goners but we were safe and no one had been hurt, so all was good.

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It was late afternoon by the time we untangled and loaded the bikes into the truck bed. We decided to head over to the campground “just in case” there was a site. No such luck, but there was ample RV parking on the other side of the dike next to the campground. What you see here are people (see the pop up trailer) who planned on the left and got to stay in a beautiful campground and people who don’t plan on the right, who ended up having fun anyway. 🙂

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We had two choices: We could sit around and be disappointed or go ahead and explore the town and enjoy the fireworks before heading over to a Wal-mart parking lot for the night. We chose option two.

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We walked back and forth from Minnesota to North Dakota.

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Grand Forks was having a Fourth of July street celebration.

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Baby Nomad, aka Thing 3, experienced his first Fourth of July. Although he was more interested in watching daddy than he was the fireworks.

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The next morning, it seemed like all of our troubles were over as we headed west. We stopped for a photo at the Geographical Center of North America and continued on to our campground. Exhausted after a long day of driving, we were excited to be parking our RV when I heard a strange clunk from outside where I was watching as Brent pulled into the site. Some creaking and clunking sounds are normal, so I didn’t think too much about it. I mentioned it to Brent but he hadn’t heard it over the rumble of the truck.

I was happily setting up inside the RV when Brent came in and said, “You know that clunk you heard? The hitch broke.”

Of course. Troubles come in threes right? Forgetting to book a campsite and a broken bike rack, then it only makes sense that the hitch would break too. Better to get our troubles out of the way now before hitting the Alcan in a few weeks.

Luckily, it was only a minor fix and there was welder who could take care of it nearby so all was good. It’s all part of the adventure!

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Do you like to #GoRVing with friends? What have been your favorite random roadside stops?