Friday, July 21, 2017

Lake of the Woods, Minnesota

July 14 - 16, 2017:

I followed routes 5 - 181 - 66 - 11- 17 - 8 - 2 today to arrive at Zippel Bay State Park in Williams, Minnesota.  It was mostly prosperous looking farm country passing through several very Scandinavian towns.  As we get closer to Zippel Bay State Park in Minnesota the country turns more barren with dirt side roads which appear to dead end at lake and marsh country.  We pass many many hunting blinds within sight of the road, seems like everyone has one. 

Love these old North Dakota indian head highway signs

Old hunting and fishing camp on route 11

The Scandinavian presence is strong here

Near the campground is this nice appearing scooter chained
on the back of this junk truck ?

Entrance sign for Zippel Bar campground

You go through the entrance to Zippel Bay State Park and then drive a couple of miles down a narrow dirt road through the forest, squeaking past tree branches,  to get to the campground.  Once there, the campground is nice, with good sized sites for our 30 footer, if larger it would be tight to get into.  It’s very secluded beautiful spot with many paper birch trees, ferns, wild strawberries and Twinkles even found some wild blueberries.  The peeling birch bark is beautiful and I had forgotten how smooth and soft the inner bark feels to the touch.  There are many flies and mosquitos mostly in the evening, but not awfully excessive.

A very green campsite

Love these paper birch trees

Driving through here to the campground loop

Another 2 miles of dirt road takes you to the shores of Zippel Bay on the massive Lake of the Woods.  There is a swimming beach, although calling it a swimming beach might be a stretch, picnic grounds and a hiking trail along the Lake.  The lake is a beautiful sight and enormous at over 70 miles long and wide with 14,552 islands and 65,000 miles of shoreline making it the 7th largest freshwater lake in the US.

The lake shoreline is eroding into the trees in places

In other places nice sandy beaches

Zippel Bay has some history starting with Wilhelm Zippel who settled here in 1887 and started a Fishery.  The fishing was good, enticing other settlers and a small village was established which flourished until about 1909.  All remains of the village are gone today

There a number of remaining towns along route 11 which is known as the “Waters of the Dancing Sky Scenic Byway”.  Route 11 runs next to the old Great Northern Railroad line which is now the Canadian National.  
The closest town is Williams which has seen better days, but it does have the Dickies Head Shop and several old weathered buildings and a grain elevator.

Grain Elevator in Williams

Dickies Head Shop, diner and adult products ?

Traveling to the east on route 11 is Warroad, an indian name for the route they used to war upon each other.  Warroad was a transportation hub being both a port city on the Lake of the Woods and a stop on the Great Northern Railway.  The restored Canadian National Railroad Depot is a beauty and is now used as City Hall.  Across the street is a beautiful modern, senior center, library and cultural center.  The cultural center was closed, but I got a brief look at it as the door was open, so I walked in and a most friendly woman volunteered to turn on the lights and let me look around even though they were closed.  
I’m not a hockey fan, but Warroad is a crazy hockey town known as "Hockeytown USA".  Every US olympic hockey team to win a gold medal has had a player from Warroad on the rooster.  Warhead is also the home and manufacturing center of Marvin Door and Window Company which is a major manufacturer and employer in this area.

Warhead City Hall formerly the Great Northern Railroad Depot

Traveling west on route 11 is the town of Baudette which is known as the “Walleye Capital of the World”  and the home of 40 foot "Willie Walleye" on Main Street.  Baudette is another railroad town and a US port of entry to the Canadian province of Ontario. 

The former Great Northern Railroad Depot in Baudette

Many outfitter shops in the Baudette,  nice Totem Pole

Willie Walleye

Baudette Water Tower

Waiting at a train crossing

On Sunday we went for a walk along the shoreline of the Lake of the Woods.  I love that name, it sounds so romantic and exotic, its wonderful to just say you were at the Lake of the Woods.  On Sunday, everyone left our camp loop and we had the whole place all to ourselves.

Nice day for a walk on the beach

A scenic resting place

I also liked this rocky shore area

It took a while, but I eventually caught this dragonfly in my viewfinder

We leave on Monday morning continuing east on the “Water of the Dancing Sky scenic route”, commonly called route 11 which passes through several scenic small towns.

The next stop is the Woodenfrog Campground near Yoyaguers National Park, Minnesota;

Twinkles and Slick 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Icelantic State Park, the Metis and the Red River Valley

July 11 - 13, 2017:

This was one of our longer rides at 215 miles on route 2 east to the geographic center of North America in Rugby, ND and then routes 3 - 66 - 20 - 5 to our destination at Icelandic State Park.  I passed through several towns enroute and stopping at Towner, Rugby, Rolette and Langdon to check out the sights.  It was all farm country, decent two lane roads with very light traffic, it threatening to rain a few times, but never did.  The windshield was a mess on arrival from the bugs and honey bees.  Each time on passing a group of bee hives (they were frequent) in farm fields I would hear the honey bees hitting the windshield, really messy and the windshield washer only makes it worse.  My only scary moment was when I was being passed by a big rig and a family of Turkeys just casually walked across the highway in front of us.  I saw them and immediately started braking, the truck driver barely missed them in the left lane and I was able to swerve behind him to also miss them.  Some days I really enjoy the the getting there.

These views along the highway were inspiring

Memorial park in Towner had nice murals

Towner claims to be the cattle capital of North Dakota

Rugby claims to be geographic center of North
America, but new technology claims the center is 15 miles away

Nice brick work in Rugby

Definitely one of the most authentic old Great Northern Rail
Depots remaining and still used by Amtrak

Painting of Rugby Train Depot and yard

Interior of the Depot

Rugby remains a railroad town

Town of Rolette has a row of mural similar to this on a market 

The Roxy Theater in Langdon

Our cat, Alice, still hides under a bedroom pillow when we travel and acts terrified, but seems to just sit there calmly and when we stop she will come right out as if nothing happened.  The strange thing is that she sort of watches us, particularly me, every morning and if I go outside and open a door on the RV or make any noise (ever so quietly) she heads for her pillow.  She almost seems to have a special sense to know when we are getting ready to travel.

This State Park has several hiking trails, a lake formed by a dam with a swimming beach, fishing, a pioneer heritage center museum with sever historic buildings.  We took at look at the exhibits in the Heritage Center which was way better that we had imagined.  This State Park was established in 1963 with 200 acres of land donated to the North Dakota by G.B. Gunlogson.  This was the family homestead built by G.B. Gunlogson's parents who immigrated form Norway. 

Lake Renwick at the Icelandic State Park

Historic church moved to the State Park

Also this pioneer cabin 

Potato fields near the State Park were in bloom

Nice Potato bag, I've handled my share of similar ones

Our first evening here was a little stressful as there was a strong storm warning in effect.  We got more nervous when a park ranger came through the campground warning everyone to seek shelter in the bathroom if the warning siren went off.  We thought we were done with that stuff a couple of states ago ?  The major part of the storm missed us, but we had a good downpour for about a half hour and luckily no hail. 

I stopped at the Pembina Museum across the highway from the State Park with a complex of display buildings, an 1882 church, an 1882 railroad depot, an old jail, a barn, a railroad depot, lots of farm equipment and much more.  A most amazing “Twilight Zone” thing occurred as I was in the main Museum building when the woman docent asked me if I would like to see this rare car behind closed doors in the back room.  She explained how this car was owned by G.B. Gunlogson who donated money to the museum to make this museum possible.  He also donated his parents homestead and farm land on which he spent his youth to create the Icelandic State Park.  He went on to get an engineering degree and became the head of the Case Motor Car division of J.I. Case Threshing Machine Company.  She explained that this 1925 Case Motor Car would eventually become the center piece of a new transportation exhibit at the museum.      
She then started to tell me how they had acquired the car at an equipment auction in the state of Maryland.  At that point, I interrupted to ask if they had bought the car from Herb Wessel.  She couldn’t believe how I knew that so I went on to explain how I knew Herb from the Dodge Brothers Club where he was a member and had I had met him at several Dodge Brothers Club functions and had been to his farm a couple of times.  Herb also had a 38 Dodge similar to mine that was his favorite car to drive.  Herd accumulated an immense car, truck and farm machinery collection on his farm, it could have been a museum.  He was also a huge J.I. Case collector with probably the most impressive collection in the country including several immaculately restored Case Motor cars.   I was amazed when I heard a couple of years ago that he was selling at auction almost everything due to health issues. 

It's a great museum from a former North Dakota governors hat

To electric insulators

To a Nehi drink advertisement

To a spare tire cover advertising the Pembina County Fair

To a vintage Pontiac sedan

To a 125 year old steam engine that blew up killing someone
that was then buried for 75 years on a farm, dug up in 1976
and restored

To a famous John Deere plow

To all kind of old farm machinery

To rusty tractors

To a Tractor like one my father owned

To a rare Case car that I last saw on Herb Wessel's farm

The history of this area derives from the fur trade and and the Metis people.  The   Metis people were derived mainly from french Canadian trappers or traders who married Indian women.  Their offspring were a balanced mix of the two cultures and became known as Metis.  They were centered from the late 1700's in two communities centered around Pembina and St. Joseph.The Metis trapped and traded as free men as they didn't work for a single trading company.  They went off each year for an annual Buffalo hunt for months with their families and lived in Teepees carrying everything in large horse drawn carts.  The Canadian government after buying all land owned by the Hudson's Bay Company started to infringe on the Metis land rights which resulted in a rebellion led by Louis Riel.  The rebellion was put down quickly and Louis Riel was convicted of treason and hung in 1885.  The Metis people sort of died off and were replaced by a large influx of Scandinavian settlers in the late 1800's.  

The second oldest town in North Dakota, Walhalla, originally called St. Joseph was settled in 1801.  There are two old trading posts in the area, both claiming to be the oldest buildings in North Dakota.  The Gingras Trading post built in 1843 sits on its original foundation a mile outside of town and has been restored by the park service.  It was built by Metis businessman Antoine Gingras.  The sad thing is that after mega bucks was spent restoring this building, it is now closed to the public due to state of North Dakota budget cuts. 
The other trading post, the Kittson Trading Post was built in 1843 and has been relocated into the city limits of Walhalla at the Walhalla state Historical Park.  It is in embarrassing condition for such an historical attraction. 

The Walhalla Theater is in the process of being restored, but
the sign said it was to reopen in 2016 ?

A interesting sign shop in Walhalla

The Gingras Trading Post reported to be the oldest
building in North Dakota

The Gingras house at the Trading Post

Metis taking a break with their carts

Louis Riel met a tragic end

The Kittson Trading Post 

The nearby town of Cavalier is another very old town in North Dakota settled in 1875.  It’s another town where time has virtually stood still, not much has changed in decades.  Thompson's Cafe on Main Street seems is the place where the locals go to eat.  This area is all agriculture with dark fertile soil and flat terrain. 

The Pembina County Courthouse in Cavalier

The Cavalier Theater

Ugly's Tavern in Cavalier

We are now heading deeper into the North woods near the Canadian border.  

Next stop is Zippel Bay State Park on Lake of the Woods;
Twinkles and Slick