Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Campfire Stories Part 1

Mary Zinn is a long-time consultant for FIRE Light Group and Wisconsin Meetings and Events. She will be traveling with her family this summer in an RV named Loretta and will be blogging for us from the road. She and her family will share their photos, stories, and travel tips as they adventure their way from Wisconsin to San Francisco and back on a 10 week journey.

Where the journey begins
While the travel part of our trip has just begun, the planning of our summer adventure started several months back. Once we decided to do it, we bought a used RV named Loretta. She comes with a history of having traveled across America just last summer where her owners blogged from the road just like we are doing.

We have an incredible agenda mapped out (see full itinerary below), but I was particularly excited about our first 10 days exploring Wisconsin. Maybe because it was the first part of the trip and I was anxious to get going, or maybe it's due to fun travel memories from childhood and remembering how beautiful our state is.

The trip started with 3 nights at Wyalusing State Park which is located at the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers. The weather was good, we were fresh, and the park was gorgeous. We had one small “emergency” when our 7 year old jumped off a rock and badly hurt his knee, but we were fortunate to find a ranger who gave us a ride back to our campsite and even transported our bikes! Wyalusing is a gem—the campsites are very nice, have all the amenities and there is lots to explore. There are biking and hiking trails and three different caves to visit which are all very accessible and great if you’re traveling with children.

From Wyalusing, we headed “Up North” to the state parks in the Superior region. We were pleasantly surprised at how grand the waterfalls were. We had a nice private campsite at Amnicon Falls and took a drive to first see the Big Manitou Falls at Pattison State Park which is the highest waterfall in Wisconsin at 165 feet. The boys were very excited as they’d never seen anything like it.

The next day, we hiked Amnicon Falls which we thought were even more spectacular! They are extensive and there are various places you can swim in the river. One word of caution: there are leeches in the river—our 7 year old got one and boy are they hard to get off!

From Wisconsin, after a five day urban detour for a work conference in Evanston, Illinois, we got back on the road and headed to Sioux Falls as a brief stop on our way to Badlands National Park. Falls Park was much more than I expected. It’s a bit touristy and crowded, but what’s great is you’re allowed to walk anywhere so you can find a place to view the falls and take pictures without the crowds.

On our way to the Badlands, we paid a visit to the almost obligatory Wall Drug. Our expectations of it were low, so we left thinking it was a pretty cool place. We had hoped to hit a few other places while in the area, but didn’t end up getting to: the drive-through wildlife park, Bear Country USA,; Lewie’s Burgers and Brews in Lead, SD (voted best burger in South Dakota); and Jewel Cave (the third largest cave in North America).

It hasn’t been all smooth sailing. Traveling can be tough on any family, but throw in things like a broken power steering line, which also affects the brakes and required us to leave Loretta behind for 5 days in Superior while we went to Evanston for Mike’s conference. Then, as we were ready to leave for the Badlands, the generator fell off on the highway and we had to get towed. It could have been much worse. Thankfully, we were able to get a cabin for the night, have a welder reattach it the next day, and stay in Loretta the following night.

Next up Custer State Park and Grand Tetons; until then, jump in and join us! Share your favorite places to camp, eat and visit. You can reach me via email at

Tips so far:
• Get AAA before setting off on a long trip. AAA has been invaluable!
• If you can swing it, mid-week camping is much less crowded.
• Expect bumps! Plan for the worst and hope for the best.
• If you choose to wear a skirt in South Dakota, make it a fitted skirt. It’s windy there!

Highlights of our itinerary: June 13-August 20
• Badlands
• Custer State Park
• Grand Teton National Park
• Yellowstone
• Glacier National Park
• Portland
• Sequoia National Park
• Death Valley
• Las Vegas
• Sedona, AZ
• Grand Canyon
• Zion National Park
• Mesa Verde National Park
• Dead Horse Point State Park
• Moab, UT
• Rocky Mountain National Park

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