Boundary Waters Bound

Boundary Waters Bound

Our half cross-country road trip was leading us to an epic adventure. I’m only just now getting around to writing about it because on the adventure we had no access to internet… it was glorious, plus life has been a little hectic since then. Now for the first two days!

On Sunday, 12 July we headed to northern Minnesota. Our first stop was actually the airport so we could pick up another adventurer, flying in from California, but after that our first stop was in Orr, MN.

Orr is called the “Gateway to Voyageur’s National Park,” and has a population of 267 (as of the 2010 census). I’d hazard to guess that most people have never heard of Orr, MN, but the town stands as a bastion of epic proportions in my childhood memories, though I had never stepped foot in it until three years ago. My former church used to own a summer camp in the town, it was a right of passage for thousands of teenagers during its existence. Part of that long ago history is the Kielczewski family; two of the daughters were our primary hostesses for the first two days of our adventure. The Erickson family (one daughter of the Kielczewski family) allowed us to stay in their newly constructed farm house as a base camp for the first night of our adventure. I’m told this new home will be listed on Airbnb, and if it ever is, I will definitely add a link here, it’s a truly beautiful home. And our hosts were wonderful. It was here that all of the participants gathered for the first time. We had a lovely meal, a Bible study, team building activities, and training in the basics of canoeing.

The participants and our wonderful hosts

On Monday, 13 July, we headed to Anderson’s Canoe Outfitters. They provided us a place to set up camp for the night and all of the canoes we rented (save one). In the afternoon we all gathered on the shore of Crane Lake and headed out on a brief excursion. This would give us all a chance to practice our paddling and get comfortable on the water before we headed out for the main adventure. On this excursion we headed to the Vermillion Gorge Trail. It’s a fairly easy canoe trip to the Gorge (only one canoe capsized and it was only slightly traumatic for the occupants), and the view of the gorge is lovely. I was the unofficial portraitist as we looked over the gorge.

We made it back to our campsite at Anderson’s just in time for a thunderstorm. We spent the rest of the evening sorting gear, shuffling foodstuffs, trading out tents, and avoiding mosquitoes.

Minnesota Treasures

Minnesota Treasures

We woke up on Friday morning to a power outage… rather, the power went out the night before, and had not been restored by the time we woke up the next morning. So we skipped taking cold showers (just further training for when we’re on the water next week with no access to showers), and hit the road. And I added another state! Wisconsin, so of course we had to stop for some cheese. We stopped at Ehlenbach’s Cheese Chalet.

so. good.

Our selection included portabello mushroom and chive smoked cheddar, smoked cheddar, hickory smoked Parmesan, brie, and chocolate cheese fudge with cherries. Honestly they were all delicious. I was super skeptical of the chocolate cheese, but it was quite good, especially with a nice malbec (as we discovered when we shared our purchase with our host in Minnesota).

We arrived in Anoka, MN around 2:30pm. Dave VenHuizen is a spectacular host and he greeted us warmly.

First, Dave made an appointment to view the garden and art work of a local artist, Nate Otto. His garden is a lovely combination of local flora (with occasional fauna) and steampunk industrial art pieces. Nate’s love of his community is evident. Taking time out of his busy schedule he was welcoming, friendly, and clearly likes to keep busy. Please don’t just show up at his house, but if you can make an appointment to see his creations, you’re in for a wonderful treat, his artwork is phenomenal. Beyond being a great artist, Nate keeps a dying art alive through repair of player pianos. I’ll link his website below.

Later Dave took us to several parks for a little stretch of the legs after our drive. We visited the confluence of the Rum River and the mighty Mississippi River (it was Josh’s first time seeing the latter, the former also, but I guess the latter is more noteworthy), then on to Anoka Riverside Park, which has an interesting history. The park was part of the flood plain plan until 2001 (I think, I didn’t take a picture of the plaque, and now I’m only mostly confident in my memory), then the area was raised by around seven feet, removing it from the flood plain. There are beautiful condos lining the walk on one side, and beautiful trees and the river on the other.

The next day was the Sabbath, which was a lovely respite from our travels. After the Sabbath ended we had dinner with Jean and Ken Cline. Jean is an extremely talented quilt-maker, and she was kind enough to show me some of her quilts. Pictures will be below.

I love visiting places and learning about them through the residents that love their communities, and make their communities more vibrant through their passions. Jean and Nate are wonderful examples of this.

cheese shop:

Nate Otto’s company:

A New State

A New State

Of the 50 (current) states in the US, I had but nine remaining to see: Alaska, Maine, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. But today was a new day, and I was able to cross off a new state: Michigan!

But first, I have to talk about our last two stops in Ohio! Our first stop was from my very favorite bakery, Vincent’s. They opened in 1954 and are an institution in Cuyhoga Falls. They make a great cookie, but the best thing on the menu (in my opinion) is their French eclair. The pastry is flaky, and has just the perfect amount of powdered sugar sprinkled on, and the custard is rich without being too sweet, and it’s always perfectly chilled. I do recommend eating this treat with either a bib, or over a large plate, because it will cause a crumb mess like you won’t believe, but worth every crumb and calorie. If you’re ever in Northeast Ohio I definitely recommend taking the time to stop by their shop. They don’t have a website, but their address is 2038 Bailey Rd, Cuyahoga Falls, OH 44221, and their phone number is (330) 923-8217. The second stop was Lake Erie, which Josh had never seen. I love traveling, but I really love traveling with people who haven’t been to the places that we are going. I love seeing a place I love through the eyes of someone new.

So back to Michigan! We were less than 20 miles from the border, so we hopped up, found a Culver’s and ate some lunch. I ordered the grilled chicken sandwich, and it was honestly one of the better chicken sandwiches I’ve ever had, I’d for sure eat it again. Once we had our meal we headed back out on the road to Illinois, where we were staying with a lovely family, the Durans. They opened their home, and made us a fabulous salmon taco dinner. Seriously. Everything was super delicious, but the star (for me) was the mango salsa.

I’m not going to lie, I’ve always been hesitant with mango salsa. I don’t know why, I love salsa. I love mango. Why wouldn’t the combination be amazing? I was skeptical. And I love trying new food, but I always steered clear of mango salsa… Well, it was amazing, and I’m annoyed with myself for missing out on all these years that I could have been eating it. Amber Duran (a phenomenal wife, mother, writer, and photographer) did most of the cooking (though her awesome husband Andy helped) and was gracious enough to share where she had found the mango salsa recipe. I’ll link it below, along with a link to Amber’s book.

It’s funny. I was born in the south (Tennessee), I was raised in the west (California), but as a teenager my family moved to the mid-west (Ohio), and the mid-west will always feel a bit like home. I loved getting to be back in Ohio, to share in Josh’s first visit to the Great Lake Erie, and to finally step foot in Michigan. As any good Ohioan will tell you, there’s no reason to EVER step foot in Michigan, but I’m glad that I did today.

We had just the mango salsa from this recipe:

Amber’s book:

Amber’s photography website:

Road Trip!

Road Trip!

We’re going on an adventure! I am so very excited. The coronavirus lock-down has been challenging, and I was beyond happy when we started meeting for church again, albeit outdoors and socially distanced, but we were together. I felt a little bit of normalcy again. But this? This is an adventure!

For context, in April, Lewis was supposed to fly to Malawi and Zimbabwe for a month long ministerial visit (along with my nephew). And I was supposed to fly to Israel for a week of touring and then to Jordan for a week of visiting old friends (I lived in Jordan with my hubs for a year, and it was a wonderful time in our life); Jordan will always have a special place in my heart… it will always feel a little like home. So I was devastated when my chance to return was cancelled. But we carry on.

Then our yearly ministerial conference was cancelled; time spent with family and dear friends gone as well.

And then the first camp of the year was cancelled…

and then another…

and then another…

and another.

I don’t doubt the severity of the virus. I know that we must do our part to slow down the spread. I know people have lost so much more than I have, but I still grieve for the things that we’ve lost.

So, when we found that our challenger camp (Boundary Waters Adventure) could continue, I was beyond excited. I trained by strapping my adventure dry bag to my back and hiking around our neighborhood, and up and down our stairwell. I wish I had done more (you can never be too prepared), but it was nice to have something to work toward. And the day has finally come! We’re on our way to Minnesota! It’s a 21-hour (or so) drive from New York City to Voyageurs National Park near the Boundary Waters; so we’re breaking our trip up over several days so we don’t have to drive so far, and we can take in some local sites along the way.

Our first stop was in Warren, Ohio (we drove from NY to NJ to PA to OH). We were going to arrive a little earlier than our host was ready for so we went to one of my favorite parks in the world, The Ledges. The Ledges are part of the Virginia Kendall State Park, which is adjacent to or part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It’s beautiful there. I lived in NE Ohio for ten years so I have many happy memories of this park. We did a short hike and then headed to our friend’s house.

For dinner we ate at Cockeye BBQ; everyone was friendly (good mid-western friendly) and helpful, the food was reasonably priced, and was delivered quickly. We ate at the picnic tables behind the restaurant; adjacent to the restaurant is a creamery (same owners). The weather was perfect, and there was a steady stream of customers to the BBQ and to the Creamery.

We met one of the owners and had a good chat. It was a wonderful evening, and I utterly enjoyed our time in Warren.

Here is the website for Cockeye BBQ, check them out if you’re ever in the area, the fried cheese grits are phenomenal:

Our friend, James Guy, is proud of his hometown (Warren) and advocates and encourages local development and economic investment. He has a podcast dedicated to his passion. You can check it out here:

New York bagels in hand we headed out
It’s New Jersey!
Oh hey PA!
Oh hi Ohio!
The Ledges
Virginia Kendall Park
Us with our host, James Guy