Leaving Duluth, we headed to Itasca State Park, known as the Headwaters of the Mississippi as the river begins it's long run to the Gulf after flowing out of Lake Itasca. The drive there was pleasant and quick and included a lunch stop at an odd diner, "The Great American Roadhouse" in Swan River, MN. Food was OK, but every table had a mini-jukebox on it that only had Elvis Presley songs. Got to the park to find the narrow park roads a little disconcerting with our large truck and camper, but we trusted the reviews of the campground that called the campground big-rig-friendly and sure enough, we had no trouble fitting into our site. Sites had electric, but no water, so we were 'dry camping' for the week. On the way in, Pam saw a sign and noted "Hey they've got Wifi". In her defense, she was still sick and it had been a long drive. Still, I'll never look at an amphitheater the same way again :) The park, in fact, did NOT have WiFi and the cell reception was less than ideal, but better than Duluth.
What a beautiful park!! We're going to miss the Northwoods. We didn't have any full days off as we were here just for the workweek before continuing west, but the weather cooperated and we were able to see a lot of the park in the evenings. The park has an extensive network of paved bike trails, so we got the bikes out and didn't have to use the truck much all week. Arriving on Labor Day, the campground emptied out all day and we had the run of the park until Friday when it started filling back up again. Lots of playgrounds, a swimming beach, two nice visitor centers and, of course, the headwaters themselves made for lots to explore.
Saturday came too quickly. Originally we'd planned to do three back-to-back driving days about 200 miles each to arrive in the Badlands, but having been on the road a bit, now, we've decided not to do single-night stays unless we're black-top-boondocking (i.e. staying in a Costco or Walmart parking lot) and not bothering to unhook and set up camp. So instead, we picked a new destination, Aberdeen, SD and planned to stay there two nights and do two longer driving days on either end of the stay.
That turned out to be a great plan as the campground we picked in Aberdeen, Wylie Park, was run by the city and is adjacent to an awesome, free, park, called Storybook Land, and a small zoo. Upon arrival, Crayton found two dead Monarch butterflies (and a hotwheels car) in our site that he kept talking about and and playing with all weekend.
About half of the park was closed for renovations, but we still got to see Humpty Dumpty, Rapunzel, Old MacDonald, and all the rest. They even had a small train that looped around the grounds. Crayton was super-grumpy that day, so it wasn't an ideal visit, but we still had a great day and also managed to get caught up on laundry, grocery shopping and the like. We all got a little sunburned, too. Still need to get better at keeping everything we need on hand for day trips.
Monday September 12th arrived and we were off to the Badlands!