2008 Midwest USA travel blog

Squaredancing Float in Bemidji Parade

Chinese Dragon

Library Float

Lumberjack Float

Redhatter Float


Paul Bunyan


Site 68 - Itasca State Park - Bear Paw Campground

Lake Itasca as seen through windshield at campsite

Pink Lady Slippers seen on trail

Unknown wildflower on trail

Doris wading across the Mississippi River

Robbie wading across the Mississippi River

The trip over yesterday from Grand Rapids to Itasca State Park in Minnesota was a leisurely two and a half hour drive over mostly good roads. Itasca State Park encompasses Lake Itasca which is the beginning of the Mississippi River. We got there about 12:30 and our campsite wasn’t available yet so we parked the motorhome in a parking lot, unhooked the Jeep and drove to Bemidji, MN which is the home of Paul Bunyan to see the large statue of him and Babe, the blue ox – very bad decision! It was only about a 45 minute drive and as we were about five blocks from the area containing the statue we were stopped behind a big bus motorhome towing a car that was stopped at a blockade. The police moved the barricade aside after a little while and let the motorhome through and we just followed them though it was a different direction than we wanted to go. A couple of blocks later the motorhome turned left but I decided to turn right as that would put us back on the right path to the statues. Wrong answer!! We went about a block through a very tight street with cars parked along both sides only allowing enough room for one lane in the street and then were stopped by a parade in progress.

Apparently this was a Fourth of July parade being held on July 6th?? We just stopped in the middle of the street, turned the engine off and watched…and watched. It seems that everybody and his brother and his cousins had a vehicle in this parade, as well as every business in town having one or more vehicles/floats. After about an hour and apparently no end in sight, I decided to back up as best I could and maybe get turned around and get out of there. I did mention how tight the street was packed with cars didn’t I? I finally was able to get it backed up about a half-block and turned around. Now we’re cooking. Whoops, the parade was making a circle and where we had made the right turn was now part of the parade – we were boxed in by the parade!

Time was running out for us. We had to get back to the motorhome and our campsite by about 5:00 p.m. and it was now getting close to 3:00. I found a gap in the parade and shot across the intersection without hitting anyone and we were free – almost. I figured we would go way back further than where we had came into this mess and bypass the parade. Nope, that didn’t work either. You have heard the phrase “you can’t get there from here.” Well, it was written in Bemidji, MN.

All we had had to eat was a pack of cheese crackers as we were driving from Grand Rapids so we figured this might be a good time to catch a bite and let this parade mania die down a bit. We stopped at a Country Kitchen and had a good meal that almost calmed me down a little. Then we figured we would access the road the statues were on (Paul Bunyan Drive) from the complete other end of town. Now you have to realize we have been using a map this whole time that had a little footnote at the bottom saying “not to be used for navigational purposes.” What is the purpose of a map if you can’t navigate by it? But at any rate they were right. Without our GPS we would have really had a good time. So anyhow, we go to the top of the town and work our way back to Paul Bunyan Drive. We find it and, you’re not going to believe this, it was barricaded! Not because of the parade, but because it wasn’t there!!

They had torn this four-lane thoroughfare down to parade rest and there was nothing but dirt left, and they wouldn’t let me drive on it! Back around to the bottom of town where we started two and a half hours ago. Hurray, the parade is over and we can get to the statues now! Wrong answer again! The little park which contained the statues and a visitor’s center that Doris wanted to get some brochures from had been completely closed off and taken over by a huge carnival

. This place gets serious about the Fourth of July. I just never figured out why they did it on the sixth, a Sunday?? We found a place to park in a little shopping center about a block away and walked back to the park. The statues were there

but probably not worth the three hour battle we had just completed. To compound it, the visitor’s center was closed and they were playing bingo outside it – talk about a wasted afternoon. Funny now, but not so much then!

We got back to the State Park and Doris dropped me off at the motorhome so I could drive it back to the campground. Our campsite was open by then and we managed to get it backed into the site without incident. It was a nice campsite,

right on the lake so we had a great view out our front window


Today we walked a two-mile trail which turned out to be much more exercise that we anticipated but still very enjoyable. It must have been a while since they had patrolled this trail as there were several trees down across the trail. You either had to go over, under or though them. We managed to do all three depending on the situation. The underbrush had also overgrown the trail in parts so that we were walking through waist-high grass with just barely a trail to follow. Like I said, it was still very enjoyable and we felt we had accomplished something by the time we finished. There were some beautiful wildflowers

along the trail. It would have been better except for the mosquitoes. Florida doesn’t have a mosquito problem. At least nothing that compares to Minnesota. We had a lot of Deet on but they still swarmed around our heads like gnats do in Georgia. Doris managed to eat one of them but she said it didn’t taste very good and wasn’t very filling.

After the trail we went up to the top of the lake where the Mississippi River starts and explored it. We both waded across the Mississippi River

. Try that anywhere else but here. The water was a little cool but not as cold as I had thought it would be. After that we went back, packed the motorhome up and left for Brainerd, MN which is where our next campground is located. More on that in a few days.

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