8/7/2014 Woodenfrog State Forest Campground, Minnesota
There is a bird whose call sounds almost like the Mockingjay from Hunger Games. Almost, but not all the way there. I think I’ve heard some loons too. It’s nice up here on Kabetogama Lake, by Voyageurs National Park. The night is cool, the day is hot. There is a breeze rustling different parts of the woods. I sat out on a rock and watched the sunset, and studied the ripples of the water as they crossed one another; combining into a supple grid of parallel lines under and on top of each other.
After two nights of car sleeping, it was good to stretch out in my tent. And the camping was onlt $14! With no out of state fees or day camping fee. It’s been many states since it was that cheap. Michigan almost got there, but the day camping fee brought it up.
Today I’m going to take a hike or two in Voyageurs by the lakeside. Most of the park is only accessibly by boat, but it’s still lovely to look at. Then I’ll see if I feel like driving to Bemidji or cutting due south and doing some more camping and then Bemidji tomorrow. There isn’t anything of much interest for me in Bemidji, except for a few photo ops. But it’s sort of my “once I’m here, I’m going to North Dakota next” point of reference. North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska. I have to drive over the majority of one of them and it is going to be North Dakota, because their National Park is way on the west side of the state. Right now I am cross referencing the going ons in South Dakota, to see where those various places are.
And having just done that, it looks like the monument of American Manifest Destiny that is Corn Palace is getting the axe. Mt Rushmore, Wall Drug, Badlands NP, and Wind Cave NP are all in relatively the same area of South Dakota, but Corn Palace is too far over to detour. So yes, driving over North Dakota, down into South Dakota for some of those sweet, sweet National Parks, and then Nebraska for… Carhenge. Then it is Wyoming time! I’ll get to Yellowstone and Grand Teton on the way out into Montana…but there is also Rocky Mountain NP in Colorado….it’s just a little bit south. I’ll see how I feel when I get to Nebraska, but I’ve at least resolved the Dakota Descent.
So, The House on the Rock was surreal, amazing, eclectic, overwhelming, and beyond any expectation. The rooms didn’t seem like they ought to be so big, because the structure itself doesn’t seem that big, but then again I never really got a good look at the building. Going up into the mountains, it’s all obscured by hills and trees, and you enter from the top and go down these walkways. There is never a moment of standing below something huge and approaching it. I paid to visit all three sections. If I had to pick a section after visiting all three, I would say the second is the one to put money on. The first one is the house, which is lovely. It is low ceilinged, with plenty of Tiffany lamps and retro and antique styling. It’s a little bit of a maze, but that just adds to the intrigue. It’s dark and warm and not practical, which is why it is so great. The second section is the automatons and the nautical exhibit and the street of yesterday. I wish I had more tokens for the automatons. If you hung around long enough, someone else was sure to put in tokens to activate it. The tokens cost money, not much, and it is smart to have it set up that way because if it was “push a button to activate” then everything would be playing at once and it would be such a cacophony. As it was, you would hear a player piano one room over, or a large music box tinkling away in the corner for a minute. I spent my tokens on a music box, a clown that called me a sour puss, a fortune reader (which gave me a very on point fortune), the Red Room which played the sugar plum waltz, I think, another orchestra automaton, and a magician automaton. I think the Red Room was my favorite, but oh if I could have listened to The Mikado or The Blue Danube. The Street of Tomorrow had jugs and drums. Automaton being an automated contraption. Some were little tricks, some were full orchestras with violins and drums and pianos. They were themed and stuffed with decorations, and lit to spur the imagination but not for clarity. Few exhibits and collections were labeled, which added to the mystery of the object, but it also allowed the collections to not be divided into “eras” or “make” or just general museum type guidelines. But I’m getting ahead of myself, that is section 3.
Section 2 had a nautical room with model ships and objects and pamphlets from various cruises, and it had a three story sculpture of a made up whale eating a boat, while a squid attacked the whale. After the nautical room, which has a name that I can’t recall (which comes after The Street of Yesterday, which is an old recreated street with facades), was a little food court. I bought some ice cream. There was a car covered in tile, Burma Shave signs, hot air balloons, and other things. The gateway to the third section is the carousel. The. Carousel. 200+ mounts spinning around with chandeliers and lights and peacocks atop. And not a one of the mounts was a horse. There were centaurs, nymphs, a bull dog. Mermaids, monsters, dragons. The horses were on the walls, stacked high and wide. There were angels crowding the rafters, and music played continually. No one could ride the carousel, but oh to watch it spin! It is a narrow hallway to get into the room, and you just see spinning and red and lights and my jaw dropped.
I stood for a long while, watching it spin. There is apparently now a “The House on the Rock” style of painting carousel animals. Something about going dark to light, and not as bright as others.
Dazed I continued on to the third section. The collection section. Circus figures, automated toys, a giant orchestra that played up this two story circus … caboose? I think is the only way I can put it. Doll houses and dolls. Little doll scenes in bell jars, that struck me as sad. A gun collection. Antique guns, art object guns that were never meant to be fired, and the highlight: a prosthetic leg with a built in holster. There was a reproduction of the crown jewels, and armor, and a diorama of knights with one on an elephant, because why not? The third section was also home to a winding room of structured things. Horsemen of the apocalypse, a tree made of cheese drums, organs and organ music, mannequins on a bridge, winding staircases to nowhere, up and down and all around and way too dark to really get a hang of any one thing.
A good five hours I spent in there. I’ll have to go back some day, and drop a tenner on tokens just to listen to everything. And the instruments had several songs, so even everything wouldn’t be it all.
Overwhelmed I returned to my car and set about driving for hours back across Wisconsin and up into Minnesota. I hung a right at St. Paul (I have no interest in the Mall of America) and camped at a rest stop on i35. A nice one that clearly allowed people to sleep. I managed to sleep in even, and got into Duluth at around noon, where I got a haircut. It was a quick trim and I’ll have to work on my bangs a bit, but oh I feel so much better having clean hair, and less hair too. I had about 4 inches removed and it is much lighter. My split ends were getting scratchy and uncomfortable. Onwards north on 53 to Voyageurs National Park. Got in at around 3:30, got one of my NP stamps, and went on to Woodenfrog Campground, unsure if I would camp or continue on. But at $14, I obviously was going to camp. So I saturated myself with bug spray, set up the tent, went to the swimming hole and read, then went back to my campsite and sat on a rock by the lake and watched the sunset. I retired to my tent, intending to read further, but I instead just went to sleep. Rest while I can in case I end up in my car for a few more nights.
There are no showers here, but with my hair clean I feel much better as a whole. And I’m not sweating like I was a few states ago. I’m leaving humidity behind, and the nights are cool. The space around me is changing. Nature and location. The oceans are far away from me now. Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, Lake Superior. I’ve seen them, touched a few of them, and now there will be smaller lakes and then no lakes and then those blessed mountains.
8:45 pm a rest stop on I94 in North Dakota
Well, I decided not to camp another night in Minnesota. I got really bug bitten for one when I went hiking, even though I put on bug spray, and for two the first camp site I got to was way expensive and it didn’t have showers so I was like “feh!” and decided to start the journey across North Dakota. Knock out a bit of it tonight, so that tomorrow I won’t have far to go to the National Park, and then I can camp for a bit!
I did a little hike at Kabetogama, but like I said I got bug bitten so it was cut short. I drove up to International Falls, swung by Menard’s (pronounced apparently muhNARDS and not MAYnards as my mind kept pronouncing) and got more bug spray (mine is almost out) and oil for the car. It’s due for a change soon, but figured I’d put more in and then I can get it changed a little bit later. Not much later!
I drove to Bemidji and it was a very repetitive drive. The trees were nice but they were not all close in. I guess with winter, you don’t want trees close to roads. So while scenic, it wasn’t spectacular. I got the campsite tip at the visitors center and scenic drove some more, and then after I decided I didn’t feel like camping, I went west on 200 and then down into Fargo, and finally got onto 94.
I’m going to get a small peppy bevvie and set Bismark as the goal, and then camp at a rest stop…unless they don’t allow over nighters then I’ll find a Walmart in Bismark. This rest stop doesn’t allow them, so I’ll drive through the next few and see if they keep with that custom.
Catch you on the flipside! Flipside being Theodore Roosevelt National Park.