GREAT LAKES TRIP PLUS MINNEAPOLIS

Click a picture to see a larger view.


Monday, July 7, 2014
We departed St. Louis this morning around 10:30 am and traveled all the way to South Bend, Indiana in our trusty Santa Fe. Our mission is to visit Phoenix Cruiser RV manufacturing plant in Elkhart to investigate buying one of their motor homes. We stayed in South bend at the Holiday Inn Express. We ate dinner at a great restaurant called Fiddler’s Hearth. We dined outside and chatted with a very nice couple who sat right next to us. South Bend is the home of Notre Dame University.
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
We woke up to some light rain this morning, but it wasn’t too bad. We ate breakfast at the motel and then checked out of the motel and drove around a little bit on the campus of Notre Dame University to take some photos. Then we drove about 20 miles east over to Elkhart, Indiana, to take a tour of the Phoenix Cruiser manufacturing plant. We had an appointment with Earl the sales manager to discuss buying our RV, and he showed us how their motor homes went through the various stages of the manufacturing process. We also talked to a lady named Carol who had just taken delivery of her new Phoenix Cruiser. She showed us her new camper. She came all the way from Virginia to pick it up. We bought a Phoenix Cruiser 2350 RV today. Our RV should be ready to pick up in twelve weeks.
SOUTH BEND (ELKHART), INDIANA


After we finished our purchase we traveled to Michigan City, Indiana, and visited the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. We spent the afternoon at a nice beach along Lake Michigan and enjoyed some wine and cheese as we watched people swimming in the lake. It was a beautiful sunny day but there was a cool breeze of the lake so it wasn’t very hot.
We stayed in Michigan City at a Clarion Motel and had dinner at a restaurant that was right next to the motel.
MICHIGAN CITY, INDIANA -- LAKE MICHIGAN


Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Our goal was to travel west to Chicago and spend the day there. Dale booked us a room in Chicago at the Inn at Lincoln Park. This was an older “boutique” hotel close to the Lincoln Park Zoo on the near north side of Chicago. The room rate was excellent; $139 a night, and parking was only twenty dollars. We arrived at the hotel about 10:30am and we were allowed early check in, which was really nice. So we hauled our luggage up to the fourth floor. Our room was very nice and very clean.
We bought CTA passes at Walgreens, and took the 151 bus south to the Chicago Art Institute. We ate lunch at a sidewalk café before going to the art museum. We spent the entire afternoon, until 5pm, enjoying the many famous works of art at the institute. We took the train back to our hotel and prepared ourselves to go out to dinner. We ate at a restaurant just a block away from the Inn at Lincoln Park. It was a Mediterranean restaurant and the food was fabulous.
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

Art Institute of Chicago



Thursday, July 10, 2014
We left Chicago around 9:00am and drove north to Wisconsin towards Door County. The traffic was terrible, but that is not very unusual for Chicago. We stopped at a state park near Sheboygan and had a picnic lunch on the shore of Lake Michigan. It was a gorgeous day with beautiful blue skies, white puffy clouds, and the temperatures were right around seventy degrees.
We didn’t have reservations in Door County, so I used our GPS to find a motel to stay at. We ended up staying at the Bluffside Motel in Sister Bay. This is where the famous restaurant called Al Johnson’s is located and they have goats grazing on top of their roof. We traveled up Highway 42 through the pretty villages of Egg Harbor, Fish Creek, and Ephraim before we reached Sister Bay. Our motel is a “Mom & Pop” type place and the room rate was very reasonable; $75 a night. We walked to Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant, took pictures of the goats, and ate dinner. The food was just OK, nothing too special. After dinner we walked back to our motel and watched an episode of Breaking Bad on Dale’s laptop. But I fell asleep, which isn’t too unusual for me.
Friday, July 11, 2014
They only had one night’s lodging available at the Bluffside Motel in Sister Bay, so we relocated and now are staying in a guest house at the Parkside Inn in Ellison Bay.
Today we went on a bicycle ride in Peninsula State Park. We rented our bikes at the state park for $6 per hour. This is a very beautiful state park. We rode our bikes all the way to the town of Fish Creek and back; approximately 10 miles. We ate lunch in Fish Creek and we bought some Wisconsin cheese to enjoy later with a bottle of wine and good crackers.
We enjoyed part of the afternoon on the beach, which is across the street from where we are staying in Ellison Bay. We ate at a fish boil this evening at a restaurant in Ellison Bay called the Village Inn. The fish was excellent. They served the fish with red potatoes, onions, cole slaw and cherry pie for desert.
Saturday, July 12, 2014
This morning we left our great guest house in Ellison Bay, which was really a huge one bedroom home with a kitchen, dining room, living room, bed room and a great big bathroom. The rate was $135 a night; and, we would have stayed one more night but there wasn’t any availability.
We are going to explore a whole lot of the peninsula this morning so we headed north to Gills Rock and then east towards Northport, which is on the Michigan Lake side of the peninsula. Northport is where you can take the car ferry over to Washington Island. We did not do the Island this time. We went to the visitor’s center and then headed south to Newport State Park. There used to be a logging industry here in Newport Bay over one hundred years ago. There wasn’t much to see here really. Then we headed south again to the town of Rowley’s Bay. This sleepy little village was packed with kayakers all over the place. Apparently there was a kayaker’s symposium this weekend. We found a bakery and had a midmorning snack of delicious pastries and an excellent cup of coffee. We sat at the window of the bakery and watched the kayakers paddle around the bay. Then we headed south again all the way to Baileys Harbor. This was a bigger town then Rowley’s Bay and they were having a flea market in the middle of town so we strolled around and looked at the junk for sale. We walked out to the end of the pier and took pictures of the town and then left to find a place to have a picnic lunch.
We drove south towards Jacksonport and stopped a few miles south of town at Whitefish Dunes State Park. The Lake Michigan side of the peninsula is quite a bit colder than the Green Bay side. Anyway, we paid our $5 admission fee to access the park and found a very nice picnic area to have our lunch (we froze our asses off). Then we walked along the lakeshore for a bit where people were actually frolicking in the 52 degree lake water.
After lunch we backtracked slightly back up to Jacksonport and then crossed over the peninsula back to the Green Bay side. We ended up in the cute little town of Egg Harbor and we took our bag chairs out and sat in the city park, right next to the boat harbor, and enjoyed some wine and watched all the vacationers coming into the harbor in their big and small yachts.
Late afternoon we headed north on Hwy 42 and drove through the quaint little villages of Fish Creek, Ephraim, and Sister Bay. We ended up staying the night in Sister Bay at the Patio Motel, which was a very old but clean motel just off of Hwy 42 on Hwy 57. We at dinner in Sister Bay at a place called the Mission Grille. We ate at this same restaurant about 15 years ago, which was the last time we were in Door County.
DOOR COUNTY, WISCONSIN

Al Johnson's Restaurant

Bike Ride In and Around Peninsula State Park



Fish Boil at The Village Inn, Ellison Bay, Wisconsin


Rowley's Bay

Baileys Harbor



Mission Grill (Sister Bay)


Sunday, July 13, 2014
We headed out early this morning, around 7am, and we are now going to drive across Wisconsin towards Minneapolis, Minnesota, to see The Mall of America. We stopped around 3pm and we are staying at a Country Inns & Suites motel. They don’t sell liquor anywhere in Minnesota on a Sunday except in restaurants. I thought most states did away with their blue laws by now!
We decided to find a bite to eat in a resort community not too far from our hotel called Excelsior, which is a harbor town on Lake Minnetonka. We ate our dinner outside at a local pub; the weather was absolutely gorgeous with sunny skies, light breezes, white puffy clouds with temps right at 75 degrees.
After dinner we walked down to the pier in Excelsior Harbor and took a one hour cruise on Lake Minnetonka on a steam boat called the Minnehaha. There were not too many passengers on board so Dale and I got to drive the steamboat. The crew were all volunteers and very friendly and chatty. We had a delightful time on our boat ride. After we docked, Dale and I strolled around the lakeshore in the beautiful park with our ice cream cones that we bought at a strategically located ice cream stand near the pier. A very lovely evening.
Monday, July 14, 2014
When we checked out of our hotel this morning we drove to Bloomington, MN, to visit the famous “Mall of America”. I suppose that these Minnasotaites have to have somewhere to go and something to do during their long, snowy winters. The Mall of America is a four-level mall with every franchise store and restaurant imaginable, and some stores we had never heard of. Also, there is an amusement park right in the middle of this huge complex of shops, restaurants, and hotels.
When we arrived at the Mall we went straight to the Metro (light rail) to catch a train to Minnehaha Park to see the Minnehaha Falls. This was a beautiful park and the falls were very beautiful. Minneapolis is a very crowded city right now in anticipation of the Baseball All Star Game that will be played tomorrow night. We visited with a gentleman on the Metro who was from St. Louis. He was all decked out in “Cardinal attire”, and he was in Minneapolis to attend the All Star Game.
We took the train back to the Mall of America and had lunch at the Rainforest Café. After lunch we strolled back to Macy’s and Dale bought a shirt.
MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA

Minnehaha Boat Trip on Lake Minnetonka

Going to Minnehaha City Park to see Minnehaha Falls

Lunch at Rainforest Cafe

Mall of America


Once we were done with visiting the Mall, we left Minneapolis and headed south on US 63 towards Iowa where we plan to spend the night in Waterloo, Iowa.
We arrived in Waterloo around 6:30pm and are staying at the Ramada Inn down by the Cedar River. We are on the 8th floor and have a great view of the Cedar River. I do believe that the Ramada Inn is the highest building in Waterloo, Iowa.
We ate at the restaurant that is located in the Ramada Inn and I had the worst steak I have ever eaten.
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
We departed Waterloo, Iowa, around 9:30am and headed south towards Missouri. We drove US Highway 63 most of the way. Once we reached Columbia, Missouri, we took I-70 home. We arrived home around 6pm.
GOING HOME STRAIGHT SOUTH THROUGH MINNESOTA, IOWA AND MISSOURI