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Misadventures on the way to Minnesota

Our trip to Grand Marais this year, we remarked, would be so much different. This, we said, despite an hour delay in which we spent searching for our missing cat. It should have been an omen.

Misadventures on the way to Minnesota

Posted May 09, 2017 by Bailey Mareu

Our trip to Grand Marais this year, we remarked, would be so much different. This, we said, despite an hour delay in which we spent searching for our missing cat. So began our trip to Grand Marais in September 2016. We've only told a few people this story but it's one of those "crap happens while you're traveling"  stories. We don't want people believing it's all rainbows and sunsets!

In 2015, I remarked as we drove through Kansas City after leaving Lawrence, it took us three weeks to get to Grand Marais (one week in Des Moines, one week in Pine City, one week in Duluth). This year, it was going to take just two days! (Okay, 2015 was different - we were intentionally taking our time and driving only a few hours every time we traveled since we were so new to this.) We had several intense driving days driving half way across the country unexpectedly in May when we returned to the midwest after six months, so two days of 5 or 6 hours of driving seemed like a piece of cake. 

For our 2016 trip, we had two nights reserved at the Grand Marais campground (starting Sunday, September 11). People start to leave at the beginning of September so we (and the lady at the office) were confident we could get a walk up spot so we could extend our stay to two weeks. I had planned to walk a 5k Saturday morning with my friend Becky so we were going to start heading North after I got back from Paola. Packing took a little longer than we thought it would - it always does - and we had an almost hour delay finding Emmy. The last two times we had put her in the car was to take her to the vet which were not great experiences so we think that is why she snuck out of the car when we weren’t looking. 

We planned to make it to Des Moines that night for dinner at my sister’s and then get a couple more hours driving in. We left Des Moines at 8:15 full of dinner and a latte in hand. I was prepared to get a couple more hours north. 

We had originally planned on getting to an RV park in Owatonna, Minnesota - halfway between the Minnesota/Iowa border and the Twin Cities. When I called them before we were even to Des Moines, we discovered we couldn’t just show up and night register (like you can do at SO MANY rv parks and campgrounds); we would need to be shown to our spot and the owners or managers go to bed at 10pm. We weren’t going to make that leaving Des Moines at 8pm. 

Phil found a couple Minnesota state parks near the interstate and we thought we’d show up and get a spot. We felt pretty energetic so we decided to go to the one further north. It ended up being further off the Interstate then we thought and the campground was full (thanks Jesse James Days) and wasted an hour. At this point it was almost midnight.

We kept driving and ended up in the southern suburbs of the Twin Cities. We couldn’t find an RV park that allowed night registration. Our options were dwindling. We had planned on just sleeping in our tent so had picked up a couple things that we needed - mainly cat food - since we weren’t going to be setting up our camper. 

Our solution, at this point, was to thank Sam Walton. Sam Walton, founder of Wal Mart was an RVer himself (legend goes) and wanted all Wal Mart parking lots to be open overnight parking for RVers. We had never done this because setting up the pop up camper in a parking lot seemed weird but if people were sleeping in their campers in the parking lot, we could probably sleep in our car. Which is how we came to be in Eagen, Minnesota, sleeping in our car, alongside a large motorhome and two semi trucks.

“Overnight” doesn’t seem quite accurate as at this point. It was 2:30 am before we settled in with the pillows and blankets we thankfully had in our car, and we knew we’d be awake in just a few hours because of the sun. 

We could have called several people we knew in the Twin Cities (including two cousins) but it was already so late and 2am is an awful time to call someone to see if we can set up a tent in their backyard! We didn’t think we’d make it all the way to the Twin Cities so we didn’t even consider it. 

We were up about 7am, grabbed coffee and got back on the road. If you have to drive through the Twin Cities, Sunday morning is a great time to do it as there is very little traffic. On the bright side of just sleeping in the car: we didn't have much to pack up and were on the road quickly. We made it to Grand Marais about 1pm. Once we got set up, we had the most glorious shower ever and headed to our favorite place in Grand Marais to eat. We followed that by an epic 3 hour nap; not at all deterred by the music festival happening in the campground.

We had made it to Grand Marais and by the following morning, all our struggles of the journey there were in the past.