Saturday, September 6, 2014

Stormy Travel, Bumpy Road and City Waterfalls

Location: Lake Elmo Park Reserve Campground; Lake Elmo, Minnesota
(click pictures to enlarge)

I left Wausau early Thursday morning because I knew there was storms in the area and wanted to give myself enough time to avoid them, if possible. My direction of travel was due west towards Minneapolis and I left the campground 9:00 am which is about an hour earlier than usual for me. I checked accuweather radar and it showed a good sized storm a little north of my route and moving east. As long as it stayed on an easterly path we would pass each other like ships in the night. The predicted storms were to contain high winds, downpours and hail all three of which are not good when towing. I hit the road without emptying my tanks thinking that if I ran into some strong wind I would be thankful for the additional weight. I know the added weight is not a problem for Freedom and Liberty to carry because when I got them weighed at the RV Rally with full tanks and came under the weight limits. The only drawback was reduced gas mileage which was fine with me, this time. About 15 minutes after pulling out, I checked the radar and the storms were drifting towards the southeast, not good! They were definitely going to intersect my route. It was just a matter of where that intersection was going to be located and if I was going to be to the west side or east side of the intersection. The west side would mean I would be clear and I would be on the backside of the storm with clearing weather ahead. From my route planning, I knew there was a truck stop about 75 miles from the campground. If it looked like I couldn't make it past the storm, I planned to ride out the storm in the relative safety of the truck stop. Maybe I would get lucky and be able to pull in between a couple large, heavily loaded 18 wheelers to help block the predicted wind. I checked the radar every 10 minutes and I could see it was going to be a close call. It seemed the storm was going to cross my route exactly at the truck stop exit. Now it was just a matter of if I could get there before the storm. I don't like traveling much above 65 mph when towing, but I pushed Freedom and we hit 75 mph a couple of times on some of the downgrades. About 30 miles from the truck stop exit I started seeing the dark clouds on the horizon. It was a strange site with dark clouds to the northwest of me and bright blue skies to the southwest. I wasn't able to get a picture because other things were on my mind. I could tell the wind was beginning to gust by looking at the trees and bushes along the side of the road. I'm not positive but some of the trees looked like Silver Maples. Boy Scout training from when I was a kid in Pennsylvania told me if the silver side of the leaves of a Silver Maple are pointing up then windy storms are due. The trees along the side of the road kept changing from green to silver, so I interpreted that to mean I had more time to get to safety. The rain started about 10 minutes from the truck stop and the amount increased with every mile. I knew I was on the outer limits of the storm and the worst part was still ahead. The skies started getting darker, the rain came down faster and the wind was beginning to make Liberty shake a little. I remembered seeing pictures on facebook about an RV campground in Iowa that was hit by some of these storms just a couple days ago. There were RV's scattered everywhere with some that had been turned over, even with their truck still attached. A sign, Exit 91, 1 mile. That was my exit and it was going to be a race between me and the storm as to who could get there first. I hit the exit ramp at full speed and planned to let the upgrade slow me down enough to stop and make my left turn. As I came to the stop sign, lightening was flashing everywhere and the wind was picking up. The rain had slowed enough for me to see that no traffic was coming so I made an illegal rolling stop and gassed Freedom. As I was crossed the bridge over the road I just left, I looked to the west and saw nothing but darkness. The truck stop was just ahead and it looked like I would make it in time. I pulled into the truck stop and quickly found a place to park that was lined up with the approaching storm. I wanted the wind to hit Freedom and Liberty head on instead of broadside. Just as I turned the key off and pushed the emergency brake, the bottom fell out of the sky and the downpour started. I was parked in a good position to handle the increasing wind and the heavy rain couldn't bother me now that I was parked. The storm lasted about 15 minutes and then passed on. After getting a cup of coffee from the truck stop and thanking the storm for an exciting morning, I continued on my way. The skies had cleared and the rest of my trip was in partly cloudy/sunny condition with no wind. Nice driving weather. 

I pulled into Lake Elmo Campground around 1:00 pm. I emptied my tanks and took on fresh water. The loop where my campsite was located is almost deserted. I know that will only last until the weekenders show up. I backed in with no problem and was able to park where my back stabilizer jacks were directly over a concrete bumper. This makes Liberty very stable so there is very little bit of movement when I'm walking around. I'll leave here Sunday morning heading north towards Itasca State Park. 

Lake Elmo if just outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The home office of the company my father retired from is located here and I planned to visit it. I wanted to see if they had any history of the projects the company had worked on over the years. I googled the company name but nothing of a recent nature came up so I began to wonder if they were still in business. I texted a friend of mine whose father also retired from the company. She didn't know about the company either so she called her parents who told us that it went out of business several years ago. That was sad and unexpected news for me. As I was growing up, the company had always been there as if it was a protector or guardian overlooking its employees and their families. It was a profitable, well run family owned company that began before World War II. Now it was gone. I turned down a job offer from the company after I got out of college. Wow, I'm glad I turned it down or I wouldn't be retired now and traveling around. It's funny how some decisions, that seem so small at the time, have such ripple effects in your life and those around you.

This is another town I lived in as a child. I would have been about 6 or so. The town is a suburb of Minneapolis called Circle Pines. I'm not even going to attempt to find the house. All I remember of the location was it being near a baseball field.

I did go into town yesterday to see the waterfall inside the city. It is the Minnehaha Falls on the Minnehaha Creek which is a tributary of the Mississippi River. The falls are about 53 feet high and located inside the city limits. They have built a nice park around the falls with lots of people relaxing and enjoying their day. I'm not sure why they weren't working since it was a Friday. I didn't ask, because I didn't want to hear the answer. You can see the falls from up top but they have built steps down the bottom of the falls. Going down for a old fat man is pretty dang easy, going up required a couple stops along the way. As I would stop to rest a little, I fooled everyone into thinking I was taking a picture. But the stairs weren't too bad at all. 

After the falls, I went to see the Mississippi River that winds its way through town. I was able to get to a point just upstream of Lock and Dam #1. I believe this was another project my father worked on, but I'm not 100% sure. I couldn't get a good picture of the structure but was satisfied with a picture of the river.
Pretty good parking to be able
to hit that spot

Stable spot. You can see the
"dog bone" electrical connection
in the background. There is only
30 amp service here so I had to
use the 30/50 connection.



Minnehaha Park

Minnehaha Falls

Minnehaha Falls

Minehaha Creek with a nice
strolling path alongside

A view of the fall from down below

A nice bridge just downstream
of the falls

Last view of the fall before climbing
the stairs out of the bottom

Looking up part of the way

Going down sure was easier

Mississippi River with some
thinking benches located just
upstream of Lock and Dam #1.
Ya'll take care of each other. Cya down the road.   

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