Albert Lea Minnesota

Sugar Bottom, site 48.

Memorial Day weekend starts now – and there isn’t a campground to be found that has space so we are in a Walmart Supercenter parking lot for the night. We regretfully left Sugar Bottom in IA this morning. One of the nicest campgrounds we have stayed in. One last look at our site to remind us of how nice it was. But we have  to move on because the campground is full for the weekend. But if you are ever out this way put this on your highly recommended list.

Rex and Shawn discussing the merits of Northstar Campers with Ginger doing what she does best – making friends with strangers.

The highlight of our day today was a visit we made to Northstar Campers, the manufacturer of our truck camper. Rex Willett, the CEO, graciously took and hour out of his day to talk about our camper. He looked everything over and pronounced our rig fit to travel. He then took us on a tour of the plant so we could see how our camper was made. The facility is human scale, nothing like the plants we passed in Elkhart. And it was clear that Rex and his staff truly care about quality and are proud of what they build.

There is nothing quite like happy people making a great product.
All wood frame construction, well insulated, and screwed together. Solid as a rock.
Hand built to high standards. The attention to detail is everywhere you look.

We left Northstar and headed north, ending up here in Albert Lea, MN. A short day on the road but a great day learning more about our camper.

Sugar Bottom Campground, Solon, Iowa

Looking at the map and the number of cities we have to pass through or near, we broke our back roads rule for the last two days. We have put a few miles on the last two days. Last night we spent the night at Indiana Dunes State Park at the bottom edge of Lake Michigan. Tonight we are at Sugar Bottom, a Corps of Engineers campground. In the process we passed through Elkhart, IN, the capital of RV manufacturing. Two hundred sixty-eight miles for Thursday, 5/24 and 399 miles for Wednesday, 5/23.

Interstate 90 took us from Buffalo past Erie, PA, Cleveland & Toledo, Ohio, much of it a manufacturing mecca. While the conventional wisdom is, we don’t make anything in the US any more, the facilities along this corridor belie that rumor. One city in particular caught our eye as we passed by, Elkhart, IN, the RV manufacturing capital of this country and probably the world. From the interstate we could see plants for Forest River and Heartland and lots filled with RV’s either ready for sale or partially manufactured. We didn’t take a lot of photographs because the weather was lousy, with heavy rain and bumper to bumper traffic.

We ended the day at Indiana Dunes State Park at the base of Lake Michigan after crossing into CDST. I’m not sure where it went, but we lost an hour. We can highly recommend this state park to anyone traveling in this part of the country. The park is immaculate with lovely wooded sites, lots of hiking trails, nature center, etc. Lake Michigan reminded us of the ocean, especially on this day. It was a cool 50 degrees and the wind was howling. You can appreciate how the sand dunes were built up when being pelted by the sand blasting wind off the lake. There are reminders at the park of just how ferocious the storms on the lake can be. The pictures tell the story:

A propeller from the wreck

While at Indiana Dunes we got the notion we might be able to make it to Waterloo, IA to visit Northstar Campers, where our Igloo was made. A call to the factory confirmed that we could visit on Friday as long as we arrived early so we made the decision to do another long day on the highway to get close enough to make the visit. We hopped on I80 Thursday morning and drove out of the weather and into the sun. By the time we reached the Cedar Rapids area the temperature had climbed to 75 and the sun was in full bloom, a welcome change from the downpours of Chicago. We now have a fuller appreciation of where our food comes from. I80 is surrounded on both sides by farmland, miles and miles of corn country. Interestingly, one claim to fame is the largest truck stop in the world.

Farmland as far as the eye can see.

We ended the day at Sugar Bottom Recreational Area. This is another highly recommended spot for travelers. Large, manicured sites, lots of trails, nice showers, full hookups if you need them and a large lake for boaters. We were fortunate to be able to grab a site right on the water and had a very quiet, restful night.

The view from our site.

The next few days are likely to be dry camping since we are now into Memorial Day weekend and all the parks will be full. Walmart parking lots here we come. Off to Northstar Campers today. Until later – Shawn.