Saturday May 4, 2019 | Hoffman City Park Campground | River Falls, WI

This is our first time “winging it.” No reservations – just see where we end up. It could even be a Walmart parking lot. You have to be flexible to travel this way.

We’re members of Harvest Host (with their RV Golf Course package). Though there are a couple of wineries, a berry farm and a golf course on our way to Frontenac State Park, it’s too early in the season for them to be open. We could have stayed at a Washington County, MN park but they don’t allow dogs in their campground. Excuse me?!

GenZe bikes ready for a tripAfter kicking ourselves for leaving our e-bikes behind last trip, when we went to Wild River State Park, we loaded them on to the bike rake we ordered through Winnebago. The bikes mount pretty high up in order to clear the hitch and brake lights. I used an 18-inch step stool to give me more height and leverage. I think the neighbors might have had fun watching us in our first trial run of loading. I’d like to think that the second go around was far more efficient, but I doubt it. To protect the bikes for this trip we used a tarp, but we’re excited to use the Bike Jacket in the future (more on that in a future post. Be sure to subscribe by filling out the form to your right so you receive notice of new articles).

This was the first time Scuppers has traveled longer than 20-25 minutes in the RV. He had to wait for us while we grocery shopped and then we drove an hour. He was a little grumpy about it but these baby steps are good for him in getting used to our future – fulltime – lifestyle.

Percy the RV at Hoffman City Park Campground in River Falls, WIWe ended up in River Falls, WI at Hoffman City Park Campground. It’s a busy park with a classic baseball field – advertisements lining the outfield wall – dugouts– stadium seating – announcer; a massive playground that our 34-year-old son would have died for when he was little; skate park; Frisbee golf course and 4 volley ball courts (with sand). The 15 electric sites are first come first serve and reasonably priced at $20.

The weather was absolutely stellar. 71 degrees with bright blue skies and puffy clouds coming in the afternoon.  I don’t know that I can ever get bored sitting outside on a day like that.

Saturday night is usually burger night at our house. With a 1.1 cu. ft. convection microwave, I think our French fries days are behind us so we ended up having a nice big salad with Foxtail Farm greens and Beyond Burgers. What a wonderful luxury to have a freezer because we had Coconut Bliss ice cream bars for dessert (thank you for those Kathleen!).

 

Sunday, May 5, 2019 | Frontenac State Park | Frontenac, MN

There’s a wonderful shop in Maiden Rock, WI called Cultural Cloth. It’s a treat for the eyes to look through all of the exotic home goods they import from women artisans around the world. We’d been itching to get there to find something special for Percy the RV. And we did!

Runner and throw pillow from Cultural Cloth in Maiden Rock, WIWe arrived promptly when they opened at 10. They were more than happy to let us take items out to the motorhome to see how they looked. We’re very happy with the items we chose and find it fitting that the rug is a “map” rug from Southern Morocco. We also bought a vibrant throw pillow made by Maya Tz’utujilfrom Guatemala. Percy is definitely turning into a home now – not just a motorhome.

After lunch of bean soup and salad at a wayside along the Mississippi river, we went to see the Lake Pepin Button Company in Lake City, MN. It’s a site where mother of pearl buttons made of clams from the upper Mississippi river. Unfortunately information about the industry is relegated to a 5 x 2 ft. display and a video about fresh water pearls; the rest of the building is an antique and gift shop.

We headed to Frontenac State Park near Lake City, MN on the Mississippi, for our several night’s stay. Not only is Frontenac a down right beautiful park, it’s a great park for bird watching as they migrate up and down the river way. More 260 species of birds have been counted here.

We bought two bundles of wood at check-in and backed our way into a lovely little site, 18E. Since the leaves are still in their infancy you can glimpse the Mississippi through the trees. Such a treat. We salivated over site 19E across the road that has an even better view. Luckily that site was open Wednesday and Thursday so we snatched it up. It rained most of those two days so we figured we might as well have a great view from the dinette window!

After experiencing less than optimal bundles of firewood in the past, we were so happy to get wood that burned!

Getting into the swing of Cinco de Mayo we had chips and salsa, tortilla casserole and coleslaw. For dessert I made “Bananas Foster” on the fire and served over Soy Dream ice cream.

 

Monday, May 6, 2019 | Frontenac State Park | Frontenac, MN

Being that the forecast was for 0% chance of rain, I was a little surprised by the rain showers that lasted most of the night. By 6am the showers passed and it was shaping up to be a great Monday.

Scuppers woke up in the morning with a squeaky stomach. We have a theory that it’s tied to upcoming weather changes – with a barometric drop – because we usually have heavy rain about 48 hours after a squeaky stomach episode. There’s a nasty two days of rain forecasted early Wednesday morning.

When Scuppers has one of these stomach episodes, the only thing that will make him happy is grass. And he’s frantic to find it. The grass soothes him and it helps him to throw up and purge so that eventually he’ll start eating his food again. And so it goes…poor guy!

Yesterday I got a pesky pinched nerve in my knee. It happens from time to time and usually only lasts a day or two. While Terry and Scuppers went on a little trail hike, I did some yoga hoping to stretch the pinched nerve away. After they got back Terry and I got the GenZe bikes down off of the rake and took a little test run to see if peddling will bother the pinched nerve in my knee and it didn’t – yay!

Working outside as full-time RVerWe spent the afternoon working – Terry with his drawing and painting – me with some web work and writing. It’s times like that we realize that we’re not on vacation – we’re just living our lives but in a whole new and exciting way!

Just before dinner (Beyond Sausage brats, Cuban black beans and coleslaw) Scuppers bounced back from his blah day. His tail was wagging, he wanted to give kisses and he was ravenously hungry having not eaten in a couple of days.

We decided to hold off on a bonfire until tomorrow night. We streamed a little TV and made it an early night.

 

Tuesday, May 7, 2019 | Frontenac State Park | Frontenac, MN

A lazy start to our day today – although that’s nothing new! Our mornings in the motorhome are mimicking our sticks-and-bricks life in that Terry still brings me coffee in bed, albeit, instead of climbing the steps to our bedroom – he just turns around. LOL!

We had a nice bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar, apples and cinnamon for breakfast and then a short hike with Scuppers. I wish we had the budget to stay in State Parks most every night. Their campgrounds have such a great feeling – space between sites and nature all around. Not to mention the plethora of trails to choose from.

We charged up the batteries to our genZe e-bikes so that we could visit the town of Old Frontenac. Getting there wouldn’t require much effort but it’s the horrendously long uphill return that we wanted to make sure we used every ounce of battery we might need.

The entire Civil War era little town of Old Frontenac is on the National Register for Historic Places. Terry especially wanted to visit the cemetery and the old gravestones didn’t disappoint.

It’s amazing the difference an e-bike made in our return trip up that steep and persistent road into the park. We used the highest setting for the motor and the lowest gear. Though we were still a bit out of breath, we made it to the top! At one point I looked down at the controls and I was going 9.1 mph. Yowzer! There’s no way we would have been able to do that without the motor. Once we reached the top it was fun to use full throttle and ride it like a scooter back to our campsite.

We enjoyed a nice fire and took it easy with dinner and just reheated the tortilla casserole from the other night. We also made a massive pan of sautéed Foxtail Farm LINKspinach  (that cooked down next to nothing) and salad. For dessert we grilled foil packets of apples with cinnamon, brown sugar and veg butter over the fire and served with Soy Dream ice cream. Yum!

 

Wednesday, May 8, 2019 | Frontenac State Park | Frontenac, MN

Wednesday was a classic “rainy day.” It poured consistently from morning until night.

We moved from site 18 to 19 where we stayed for another 2 nights with an unobstructed bluff view of the Mississippi. Heck, if you’re going to be rained in – we might as well have something to look at through the window, right?

I spent the day working on the computer and Terry painted. Scuppers moved from one favorite seat to another. When he wanted to go outside, I donned my rain boots, rain jacket and umbrella off we would go – trying to cover him the best I could so Percy didn’t end up smelling like “wet dog.”

We went 3 days before using up our 30-gallon tank of water. Last trip we went through the tank in 2.5 days so that’s an improvement but shy of the 5 days we hope to eventually work towards.

I made creamy penne with spinach for dinner and then we vegged out streaming a couple of programs before bed. Oh, and we finished off the Nutter Butter cookies 😉

 

Thursday, May 9, 2019 | Frontenac State Park | Frontenac, MN

It was time for a run into town for a few groceries and fill up our water tank but first we had a nice breakfast scramble and a couple cups of coffee.

We’re happy with how fast and easy it is to up and leave our site. Since Percy is our primary vehicle, we needed something that can be ready for a run into town as quickly as possible. Rugs up, ottomans up, levelers up, slide in and off we go in 5 minutes.  Cool beans!

Being that this is life on the road and not really a vacation, I balanced the checking account and did some work.

As breezy and bleak as the day was it wasn’t raining. Terry went off for a nice long hike on the Lower Bluff Trail. Me, I stayed behind to do some writing. Scuppers? He moved from one favorite seat to another.

With the cold wind we decided against a fire and instead enjoyed a cozy evening inside the motorhome finishing up some leftover Cuban beans and rice and streaming some TV.

Friday, May 10, 2019 | Garvin Heights Vineyard, Winona, MN Frontenac State Park | Frontenac, MN

There’s something wonderful when you have full water, a mostly empty grey tank and you know you’re going to fill the water again and dump the tanks after the showers. Hello long”ish” shower!

We went for a morning walk through the prairie enjoying the expanse of fields and vista views to the bluffs in the distance – the birds calling and chirping all the way. The clouds had an interesting pattern – like lines drawn parallel in the sky. I hoped that it was foretelling a strong high-pressure system coming. We stopped at a bench on the trail before heading back to knock down camp and head off to our Harvest Host destination, Garvin Heights Vineyard.

Harvest Host is a membership program where you can stay for free in your RV at vineyards, breweries, museums, farms, etc.. We also purchased the golf course package. It’s customary to make a purchase as a way of showing your appreciation. So I guess you could say it’s “not exactly” free, but you’re purchasing an experience or product that you can enjoy so I’m happy with that arrangement. If you’re interested in joining you can receive a 15% discount by using this link.

Highway 61 from Frontenac south to Winona was the most pothole-infested, tooth-rattling road we’ve ever been on. Glad to have finally arrived in Winona, we stopped at a park for lunch. Terry wondered where his cell phone was. I opened the Find Friends app on my phone. His phone was at Frontenac State Park! Yep. He accidently left it on the bench during our morning walk. Damn! There was no way we wanted to drive that horrible road back and forth again so we scratched our Harvest Host plans and reserved the only remaining camp site at Frontenac.

Site 4 was non-electric so we can still try out dry camping for the first time. It was at the end of a row so we had another bluff view without any other campsites in the way. Plus (!) there were 2 well-placed trees so I could finally try out the hammock our Son gave us for Christmas! What is it about hammocks? They are relaxing. Does it make us feel childlike – to swing from trees?

With a chill in the air we enjoyed a final bonfire at Frontenac. Spaghetti with classic tomato sauce is always a perfect choice for a night like that. I like to use Hot Italian Beyond Sausage for a little zip.

Saturday, May 11, 2019 | Maiden Rock Winery and Cidery | Maiden Rock, WI

Our first night dry camping seemed to go well enough. We’re extremely frustrated by our battery consumption. The compressor refrigerator is an energy hog! We purposely installed 2-6 volt 225 ah AGM batteries so that we’d have 112 ah of useable power (double what came with the motorhome) but it’s as if that extra amperage doesn’t exist.

We had a sailboat for 5 years that had a compressor fridge (small but not that much smaller) and we ran the fridge, water pump, stereo, lights and anchor light on 2 measly marine batteries and had no where near the performance problems we’re experiencing.

We can start out with 13.1 volts and within 2 hours we’re down to 12.6 and in another 2 hours we’re at 12.4. That’s without a load (you should avoid going below 12 volts). To add insult to injury, we were pulling in 4.5 amps with our solar panel so it should have been a wash with the batteries since the fridge pulls 4-5 amp/hour.

So, we turned off the refrigerator overnight. We knew we would be running the furnace and didn’t want to risk going below 12 by morning since we couldn’t run the generator until after 8am. We woke up to the battery at 12.4. So normal!!

To my fellow meanderers – sorry for venting.

We got underway from Frontenac and headed to Redwing. I needed to pick up a small 8-inch ceramic pan from Target to add to our galley. Afterward we took a harbor road to enjoy their river park. There’s quite a complex of private metal floating boathouses through the Red Wing Yacht Club. We’ve never seen anything quite like it before. Terry sat along the riverbank to draw them while Scuppers and I took a nice walk along the waterfront.

Red Wing Yacht Club by Terry Hildebrand

We had lunch at a wayside between Maiden Rock and Stockholm. There was a long line of vehicles as part of a rally that must have been about rusty beefed up old  ’40 era pickup trucks and cars. Watching them drive-by from Percy’s dinette window our only thought was “Please don’t stop in Stockholm!” Thankfully they were heading further down the river.

Being that we’re creating home in a 150 sq ft RV, shopping for “stuff” is kind of out the picture so instead we opted for amazing pie at Stockholm Pie and General Store. I can see why USA Today, Delish and Gourmet magazines tout their pie! I had cherry and Terry had banana crème – his favorite. We highly recommend a stop.

It was time for us to drive up to the top of the bluff for our evening at Maiden Rock Winery and Cidery. We enjoyed a complementary tasting of their hard ciders and varieties of apple wines. Cassandra knows her stuff as she described the different options to choose from. Being that it was Mother’s Day weekend, I received 4 tastings instead of 3. We purchased a four-pack of Scrumpy, a semi-dry sparkling cider and a bottle of a nice dry apple Riesling from another winery.

The owner, Carol, showed us a few different options to park Percy. We chose a quiet spot behind the barn with sweeping view to a farm field to the East and orchards to the North and West. With the cold spring, we are too early for apple blossoms but it must be spectacular when in full bloom.

I admire people who give so much of themselves to their work. Especially in farming. The shear scope and challenges is mind boggling to me. 4900 apple trees! We can hardly keep up with the pruning of our three crab apple trees. Not to mention disease control, culling, harvesting and processing all the apples to make wine and cider. Extraordinary.

On the battery front – we were pulling 10 amps from our solar panels in the afternoon. Hoot hoot! The best we’ve had. It’s amazing what a big blue sky will do in collecting energy from the sun. We decided to live it up and left the fridge on. Even with the furnace, some lights, music, morning shower and dishes, we drove away with 12.2v left in our batteries. We’re still going to go to lithium batteries – we need 24 hours of living on batteries at least – not 12 but at least we didn’t need to disturb the morning calm and start the generator.

 

Sunday, May 11, 2019 | Home

It was time to head home when our hearts just want to keep going. I scheduled lunch dates with several friends and we had a few more upgrades for Percy before heading out again.

Scuppers was glad to be home but you can tell he was starting to get used to living in a small space. The house is almost too big for him now.

It’s nice to know that we can live and work comfortably in a small space.

We hope you enjoyed these shakedown travel logs! If you would like to continue living vicariously through our travels – in real time – we hope you’ll consider supporting us through Patreon. Help put a little diesel in our tank  every month and become a member of the WeMeander community!

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