As we had planned, my friends and I pulled out of my driveway at 8 a.m. on July 22 — my 64th birthday — to help me mark off two new states on my bucket list. I had jokingly remarked to the two of them that they had better put on a pair of Depends because we were getting to Minnesota as soon as possible.
They took me at my word and knocked on my door each wearing a pair of Depends over their clothes. Of course, they had an extra pair that I was to put on for a picture before we left. I guess you know we began our trip still laughing, but the Depends were taken off. We had many more laughs on the trip.
The weather could not have been better for us as we traveled and toured new places. There were a few times we wished we had left the Depends on when we were looking for restroom exits.
The TripTik that we had did not prove to be as valuable as a Garmin to guide us on the highways. The first day, one of the highlights for me was seeing the wind turbines. I had never seen one before and now I can say I have seen thousands of them. Another highlight was when we saw the Wisconsin Dells, something I had heard about but never understood what it was. They are unique, massive, beautiful, rock formations. We were able to see these alongside of the road. I read where some of these Dells are 14,000-year-old rock formations. They are known as Upper Dells and Lower Dells, and are a big tourist attraction for Wisconsin.
Though I had been to Wisconsin before, one of the things I learned about Wisconsin on this trip is the state is not only famous for their delicious cheeses, but also for their cranberries. I know I may sound dumb, but I thought cranberries were grown somewhere in California. Though, I didn’t sample any of the cranberries there, I couldn’t get enough of the different kinds of cheeses.
On our trip we saw so much wildlife, it was exciting. At one place on the side of the road, we saw three deer bucks standing very close to the highway and all three of them had racks of about six to eight antlers each. It was as though they were watching us as intently as we were watching them. Later on in the trip we also spotted three baby deer. We felt sure their mamas were somewhere in the bushes. They didn’t stick around long enough for us to try to see.
The air gave us some entertainment also. I couldn’t count all the hawks we saw. Thanks to one of my friends who pointed them out to us.
We spent the night in Eau Claire, Wis. There, I was surprised with birthday cake and a crown to wear. I was treated like a queen as my two friends waited on me for my birthday celebration. We feasted on food that had been kept hidden from me in the cooler as we rode along. It was a birthday celebration I will never forget. We also added some of the cheese and salami we had purchased. We had packed our drinks and snacks and we were content and stuffed. I actually could not believe we had not stopped even once that day to eat out.
I have failed to mention that I got to see Lake Superior on my trip. I had never seen this Great Lake before.
The next morning we headed out again on our search for Ely, Minn. The first thing I noticed about Minnesota was the white birch trees. They are so pretty to me. I have never seen as many trees in one state as in Minnesota. It also seemed as though we drove for miles and saw no one on the highway or any towns. If we did see a home it looked as though no one lived there. We all remarked that we didn’t think we would want to travel alone in Minnesota.
We decided it was time to get a meal other than snacks so we stopped in Duluth, Minn., and ate at Barker’s Lake. It was a pretty area on a lake with lots of boats. It was there we met a very nice lady who gave us some great directions to get out of town. We had already made two complete circles of the town previously. We decided we needed help or we would be spending the night circling Duluth.
One thing I have to mention is Minnesota is home to 10,000 lakes, and I do believe we saw about 8,000 of them on our trip. I couldn’t believe how many we saw. As I said, our purpose of the trip was to go to Ely, Minn. We arrived in the town on the second day around 4:30 p.m. As we were driving down the main street, my eye noticed an antique shop. Something drew me into it and I told the girls I wanted to stop there. Well, as I went in and turned a corner I saw one, lone, Kentucky Derby glass — a 1979 Derby glass — that I had been looking for. I had not been able to find it in Kentucky, but there it sat on the shelf in Minnesota. I was so excited and could hardly believe my luck. My two friends couldn’t believe I had found it either. The price was inexpensive, and I had my first souvenir to take home.
Once we made it to Ely, we still had about 25 more miles to go to our destination that day. That was the nearest town from the cabins in the woods we were going to. Once we reached our destination, I was told we were as far as we could go in the United States. There were no more roads farther. If we went any farther we would be in Canada.
There is so much more that I could write about but I will try to finish up my trip and the wonderful time we had in Ely, Minn., in my next article.