Campground: Mystic Lake Casino. $35.07 full hookup. Paved sites. Exceptionally clean and neat. Discounts during off season.
Campground: Baker Park Reserve. $22 Water/Electric (30amp). Over 200 sites, most with electric. This county park has it all. Paved bike paths for walking and rollerblading as well. Large lake with swimming and boating access. Always crowded on weekends so one must make reservations in advance for weekend stays. Water and dump station available.
Distance Traveled: 100 miles
Maple Plain Minnesota.
I arrived on Saturday, after the 4th of July and won’t be able to get into Baker Park until Sunday. So I’m staying at the Mystic Lake Casino for one night. A tad expensive for my tastes, though it’s a really well maintained Rv park and owned by the casino. They tell me it’s the 3rd most profitable Indian Casino in the country.
By the way, the drive up Interstate 35 was pretty rough going for quite a distance, until finally getting closer to Minneapolis. I guess those harsh winters are pretty brutal on the highways up here. And for any Rv’ers like me, the major highways around and through the city are quite daunting. With traffic lights on the on ramps to permit one car at a time onto the major highways, backcountry drivers like me get a bit uptight navigating such roads.
But I finally landed in a small town on the outskirts of the city, Maple Plain and have settled into the Baker Preserve campground.
Now Minneapolis has some memories early on for me as it was the first place I ever went too completely on my own for a couple days vacation. I was around 19 and I remember my parents driving me to the greyhound pickup spot near MTU in my hometown of Houghton Michigan. With tears in their eyes and a lump in my throat, we were all thinking it won't be long before I head out on my own to start life who knows where. That Greyhound bus drove all night long, south into Wisconsin, the full moon following us all the way. I was so excited on my very first adventure, that I couldn’t sleep a wink. Staying up all through the night as the bus stopped at each small town along the way, picking up passengers. We arrived in Minneapolis the next morning. I pulling my luggage behind me as I walked to the nearest hotel to get a room for a night or two. I didn’t have a lot of money but they gave me cheap room, with no view, actually overlooking the big a/c units on top of a roof. I explored the city as best I could on foot going into the biggest department store I’d ever seen. Floor after floor of departments. I ended up on the seedy side of town and went to a movie to have something to do. I remember it was a most depressing moving and I couldn’t wait to get back outside in the sunshine.
Now many years later, I’ve arrived with my own transportation and my home in tow. A little wiser but still with a sense of adventure and a desire to explore.
Since I’m in the area, I just had to drive over to The Mall of America. You know it’s the biggest mall in the U.S. so I had to see what it’s all about. Nickelodeon has a huge theme park with all those crazy roller coaster rides that spin you around, dipping and turning and swinging up and down. I did not go on any of those rides. Though if I were with someone, I probably could be persuaded to go on one or two of the more tame rides. The Mall of America is huge, but nicely divided into sections that don’t make it seem overwhelming. And it’s between 2 and 4 levels high depending on which section you're in, so there’s lots of walking and exercise to be had while window shopping and people watching.
Tip: use your phone to take a picture of the parking garage level and row you're in so you won’t get lost.
Of course my main reason for being here in Minneapolis is to visit with all my relatives. I’m meeting up with Jay and his new wife Lee and their brood of 8 children as well as my niece Renee and her husband Tim and 5 children. I’ll list all their names and ages but don’t hold me to being able to point out what name goes with each child.
Jay’s home is a rambling mansion with 9 bedrooms to accommodate all those growing kids. It was built around 1911 and was the original estate home on many acres, now filled in with high end homes surrounding the place. As all modern families go Jay met me at the door while on the phone. After completing a quick business call, I got the grand tour with explanations of when each addition was made to the house. I love an older home with all those unique turns and twists and add ons. One of the dens and the veranda were my favorites, though the master bedroom suite was pretty awesome too.
Of course we all gathered around the kitchen, past the butlers pantry, at an angled granite counter top with tons of seating where Jay would take command of the dinner preparations. We were to have homemade pizza using their wood fired pizza oven and each one would make their own pizza with whatever ingredients they wanted.
|my niece Renee|
While sipping on a good red wine, I was gradually introduced to each child that wandered in. We adults shared our lives and adventures and I told some family stories to Renee that I think helped make her feel closer to my sisters (her mother) and myself and what it was like to grow up in the Palosaari family up in Houghton Michigan.
Little Calvin the youngest of Heidi’s children took a liking to me right away. After Jay and I went to wake up the smaller kids from their naps, little Calvin wanted me to carry him downstairs and later would come over and sit on my lap. What a little charmer. Little Jillian sat with me as we watched the other kids and dads play 4 square. We talked about how it’s harder to breath at higher elevations and how after a while you're lungs adapt to the thinner air and become stronger. She wondered if bugs had trouble breathing at higher elevations too. What a smart little girl and what a good question. As we looked off into the distance, she pointed out all the birds sitting on the tops of some trees and then we had a grand discussion about clouds overhead as they turned pink in the evening light.
Well, I had a most wonderful time telling family stories, sharing my adventures with all those relatives and learning a bit about their lives, dreams and hopes. One couldn’t ask for a better way to spend a Minnesota summer evening than with family and Happy the dog.
So here’s all the names of the kids I’m a Great Uncle too:
- Heidi’s children: Sarah, Elisa, Minnie, Noah, Natalie, Jillian, and Calvin.
- Lee’s son is Eli
- Renee’s children are: Ryan, Kevin, Andrew, Matthew, and Bella (Isabella) (Bella loves shoes)