Why Travel Nova Scotia?

Canada, National Parks, Uncategorized

Hands down Nova Scotia is one of our favourite places (thus far) on this trip.

No doubt in our minds the saying is true; the further east you head in Canada, the friendlier the people. We really utilized Boondocking throughout Nova Scotia, and met some absolutely incredible hosts and locations.

Stop one in Antigonish backed onto a Provincial Park, providing miles upon miles of hikes for us to explore. Wandering through wildflowers, streams and wooded forests we hiked our way to the top of the ridge line, rewarded with an expansive view of the area.

We made it thus far with little rain, but early morning we heard the rain begin to fall on the bus roof. As we headed for Cape Breton National Park, it really started to rain. However, we were spoilt for a spectacularly purple sunset over the ocean in Inverness, as the rain cleared for the evening. We had a fairly slow day, driving and exploring trying to stay dry as much as possible. It was the first real test for our solar system, with very minimal sunshine all day, we were super impressed the battery capabilities.

The Cabot Trail was an impressive scenic drive, despite the intermittent raindrops and clouds. We decided to walk the skyline trail; an short hike along the ridgetop overlooking a large section of the Cabot trail. The easy-going hike provided a few Instagramable views including the final ridge which we figured would give us a great video of the bus driving along the Cabot trial.

Brent headed off the last couple of kms of the trail to jump in the bus and drive, I sat enjoying the view despite the rain and wind. As I turned to record the bus, a cloud front rolled in from the ocean. I could do nothing (no cell service) but laugh, I waited as long as I could while the weather deteriorated, but eventually made the call and hiked back to find the bus. Hilariously, well I guess frustratingly, I made it back to the bus as the cloud front cleared.

We continued our drive throughout Cape Breton National Park finishing our afternoon with a few beers at Big Spruce Brewing – a great suggestion from Parsons Brewing in Prince Edward County.

Yet again, Nova Scotia provided a spectacular sunset as we drove towards Halifax. We stumbled upon Sober Island Brewing, housed in a cozy little roadside pub with a few interesting brews.

We really try to avoid driving long days or at least break the days up with something outdoorsy. (We have a daily driving limit or ‘grumpiness avoidance plan’ as we like to call it) We found a great little hike along The Liscombe River, which followed the river banks either side, joined with a wooden bridge crossing the salmon ladder. As Aussies, we had no idea what the heck a fish ladder was, every sign we passed we assumed it was something for fishermen or something along those lines. It wasn’t until a quick chat with a group heading the opposite direction we realized it was part of the salmon run! Unfortunately, it wasn’t salmon season so it was a pretty empty ladder but still super interesting to see!

Next stop was Halifax, we had a little taste of what our lives may have been like as it was likely if we weren’t in Vancouver that we were going to be in Halifax. It was Sunday which in Canada means one thing – Hockey! We managed to grab two tickets to the Halifax Moosehead who are in the Canadian Hockey League. We hadn’t seen a CHL game so it was great to see some hockey, and we had missed watching the Canucks play back in Vancouver.

 

After a hockey Sunday in Halifax we headed to Broad Cove a very small group of houses along a beach about an hour out of Lunenburg. We had spent the morning admiring the exuberant coloured buildings of Lunenburg before retiring to a grassy knoll right beside the cove for the next couple of days. We enjoyed a few days reading on the beach, wandering throughout the rocks, watching the seals which called the cove home and sunset fires on the beach. Oh and meeting the locals who were walking their dogs along the cove, one of our favourites was a husky named Jax, who just a super gorgeous natured dog (I wanted to take him home with us in the bus).

After a mini beach retreat, we continued through Nova Scotia, heading for the opposite coast along Route 8. This road took us to Kejimkujik National Park (Do not ask me to say that aloud), a beautiful national park which is based around a lake and surrounding islands. We could have spent a week or more exploring the backcountry camping sites via canoe and hiking. We didn’t have the time unfortunately so we opted for a short kayak along the river thoroughly enjoying the fall colours which were really starting to take ahold.  Whynot Adventures was a great rental place right on the water, which if we had the time rent whole backcountry canoeing kits. After the upper body workout, we jumped back into the bus and continued on our way.

We found a tiny little blue shack along the road which was a general store, gift shop and restaurant. The bustling little room filled with tables, served up hands down the best scallops we had ever had. Funnily enough, our boondockers that evening said it was their favourite local place and were surprised we found it! We left our boondocking hosts after sharing some wonderful stories and with some freshly caught Atlantic cod.

Brent had managed to find a Maple Syrup Farm that was still open this time of year, as we hadn’t realized there is a Maple syrup season! We were able to wander throughout the maple trees along the sap line which was gravity fed and most importantly taste different styles of maple syrup. We again boondocked nearby, with a delicious home cooked meal and an evening by the fire with our hosts, we were sad to be leaving Nova Scotia behind.

Small but with so much to offer, we only discovered the tip of the iceberg.

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Lobster Suppers, Anne of Green Gables and lots of Oysters…

Canada, Uncategorized

We spent a couple of expectation exceeding days exploring Prince Edward Island. It was late September, which meant a lot of PEI had closed down for the season. For us, this was perfect – we love to see the ‘must see’ things, without the crowds as much as people. Day one was spent finding some of the best seafood and other delicious treats around the island, with a few recommendations from our lovely Boondocking hosts.

A few people who had a peek through our little home before we left Vancouver were confused as to our need for a shucking knife. What can I say, we are really love our seafood (beer & wine – if you haven’t already figured that out).

The shucking knife came in handy stop one of the day at Stanley Bridge. We grabbed a bag of fresh raspberry points oysters and found a little dock to perch ourselves and shuck the delicious oyster. We had both only ever eaten Pacific Oysters and we were intrigued to try Atlantic oysters. We couldn’t quite believe the difference in taste between the two – we thoroughly enjoyed Atlantic but Pacific oysters are still number one in our minds.

We headed down to ‘The Local’ a quaint little bar right on the marina to try some bar clams and delicious homemade PEI potato fries. We spent the afternoon wandering throughout different parts of PEI before having a wonderful lobster supper with our hosts at the best supper restaurant in PEI. We had no idea what to expect, simply it was an exercise in self-control!

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The unlimited (advertised as the largest) salad bar was ridiculous in size, the unlimited mussels were overwhelming delicious (Brent really took advantage of that), the sheer choice of desserts were mouthwatering and then there were our ‘mains’. I opted for the scallops and Brent enjoyed a pound of cooked lobster. All in all, you could say we were thoroughly enjoying PEI.

We spent time driving around the island and visiting Anne of Green Gables National Site which was the inspiration of L.M Montgomery’s descriptions within the book. A childhood favourite of mine, it was quietly heartwarming to wander through places I had envisioned a thousand times. As we finished a wonderful brief trip to PEI, we jumped on the Ferry heading for Nova Scotia, excited for what more the Maritimes could offer.

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Stanley Bridge

 

Let the Maritimes begin!

Canada, National Parks, Uncategorized

The Maritimes were high on our Canadian bucket list, but it also meant we were in our final weeks in Canada before a 5-month stint in the USA.

As we left Quebec behind us, we headed for the New Brunswick coast.   We had lined up a boondocking spot, amongst the maple trees of a five-acre property just outside Kouchibouguac National Park for a couple of days while we explored the national park. We were treated to the wonderful beginnings of the fall colours, while still enjoying beautiful summer weather! By Bike was the best way to explore the majority of the national park, cycling along a very well-maintained gravel 30km bike loop, which would soon become a cross country skiing and snow shoeing loop. Another evening spent by the fire, getting to know the locals with a beer in hand, is definitely something I don’t think we will ever tire of. The next day saw us on our way to Prince Edward Island, via a little lobster shop recommended by our hosts. A one pound lobster fully cooked for $10, we could hardly believe it. We found a park bench by a lake with some bread and tartare sauce, and enjoyed a pretty damn delicious lobster roll.

After a week or so exploring Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, we found ourselves back in New Brunswick as we headed south for the USA. First though we wanted to experience the world’s largest tides in Fundy National Park (one of the seven natural wonders of North America). We boondocked about an hour from the National Park gates, as we had an early start to catch the low tide first thing in the morning. It was a bit surreal walking around the shore beside pontoons and rock walls that were 10m tall, it was hard to imagine the water level so high! After breakfast and coffee by the beach, we headed off for a short hike through the national park, which had some spectacular views of the bay of Fundy, and of course some more Red Chairs.

We spent the afternoon reading by the beach, watching the water slowly rise higher and higher. It was unbelievable the difference in the tides, and we were thrilled to witness both the full tidal cycle.

 

As we left Fundy National Park behind us, we followed the scenic route into the township of Saint John, for our final night in Canada. Or so we thought, after a lovely evening in Saint John, exploring the local brewpubs and a final breakfast at Tim Hortons -if you told us when we first arrived in Canada, how much we would love Timmy’s, I don’t think we would have believed you- we were heading towards Maine when a question rumble began from the bus. We decided to use our roadside assistance towing us back to Saint john rather than causing more damage the longer we drove. Our fingers were crossed for nothing too major, but we had perfectly hit Thanksgiving weekend in Canada and had to wait out the long weekend to get a diagnosis. So, we found ourselves celebrating Thanksgiving in the mechanics carpark with lots of rain. What turned out to be a minor hiccup (a replaced vacuum pump fitted in Maine) in our journey forced us to stop. This nomadic life definitely has perks of freedom and adventure, but even with a few setbacks is a pretty epic lifestyle.

Tow Truck

A little sad to see our home on a tow truck, but it was nothing major thankfully!

Bus is up and working again, deemed safe to drive we booked in for repairs in USA – where the part was in stock and cheaper – and headed for the border!

Through Quebec for the food…

brewery, Canada, Uncategorized

Montreal & Quebec City

I could go on for a while about all the beautiful scenery and the wonderful sights we saw throughout Quebec… However, the food was definitely a highlight (one of our favourite parts of travelling). We left Ottawa with a list of places of ‘must eats’ so we thought we should probably share.

Alfred, Ontario – Of course for the poutine

Alfred, a tiny town which we drove through on our way from Ottawa to Montreal, the recommendation was choose any chip shop and stop. Any of the numerous that lined the main street are some of the best places for Poutine. After a very quick stop and a delicious serve of poutine we were back on the road. A definite road trip stop, not that you need an excuse but you’ve got to change drivers once in a while yeah?

Swartz – A Montreal institution

We were told to be prepared for a long queue to get our hands on the famous Montréal smoked meats sandwiches. But, we lucked out with maybe a fifteen/twenty-minute wait (we definitely hit a lull in the crowds, by the size of the line when we left), before we were perched at the bar. I don’t really need to say much, just check out the photo!! Make sure you try some (or all) of their sides, the pickles are damn good.

Bagels, Bagels & Bagels

We barely made it down the block before we were eating one of the mouthwatering bagels of St-Viateur having watched them be pulled from a wood fired oven moments before. We opted for 6 Bagels – rosemary, sesame seed and everything. We seriously considered heading back for more. If you have a little more patience than we di9Td, they have every flavour imaginable of cream cheese available to coat your bagel of choice, but in all seriousness, make sure you try at least one fresh from the oven plain. (So good, We ate them all before I took a photo)

Quebec City for cured meats

A delightful market hall by the river just outside the old town of Quebec City, which was full of fresh produce, cured meats, breads and wines (all the best things really!!). We wandered throughout sampling some delicious products before deciding on some seriously delicious salami, some veggies and a loaf of French bread. We managed without too many translation issues, as our French is virtually non-existent.

Cured meats, Fresh Veggies and french bread

Delicious lunch from the produce at Quebec City Market Hall

La Barberie Brewery

After a day of exploring the city on our bikes (not recommended unless you seriously love riding uphill) we headed to a local microbrewery to try some local brews. Great brewery with a gorgeous deck which weaved itself around the trees, was a lovely place to enjoy the sunshine before heading on our way.

Sometimes, being unprepared creates the best adventures

Canada

A weekend in Ottawa 

For the first time since we set off from Vancouver, we didn’t sleep in the bus!! We were in Ottawa visiting our friend Chelsea, who graciously had a spot for us to park the bus as well as a spare room for us to call home for the weekend.

It would be wrong for us to not pop in and say hi to Trudeau, so we took advantage of the beautiful weather and rode into downtown to explore parliament and the city.

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We spent the afternoon sampling beers at Waller Street Brewing in the market area, a great little basement craft brewery with some interesting brews.

Unprepared sometimes means the best adventures,

The next day, after some brief research using Alltrails, we decided on Lac Philippe hike in Gatineau Park, an easy drive out of downtown Ottawa. We stopped by the information Centre on our way into the park to confirm Lac Philippe trail was open. We were a little confused as we were asked if we had the right equipment? Confused looks passed between us, we had all the essentials for hiking, what else could we possible need?

We quickly found out Lac Philippe was mainly a caving trail, rather than a hike. How unprepared were we! Thankfully, there was an outdoors store not too far where we splurged on a single head torch and waterproof bag. (Annoyingly, we had these items in the bus which was back in Ottawa) With plenty of other ‘hikes’ to choose from, we opted for a bit of unprepared caving because who doesn’t like a bit of adventure.

An awesome experience of climbing through the caves, trying to share the light from one head torch between the three of us and navigate the very small spaces! A shame we didn’t have our GoPro with us either (seriously not prepared). If you are heading to Ottawa, we can highly recommend Lac Philippe hike. At least you know what to expect and will be prepared!

We spent the evening around a fire, learning to throw knives (we learnt don’t ever piss our friend Chelsea off, she is alarmingly accurate with throwing knives) and trying s’mores for the first time!

A quick weekend in Ottawa, turned into a break from our tiny home (a chance to reorganize and give the bus a good deep clean), a hike which turned into swimming through caves, s’mores and knife throwing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can we live here?

brewery, Canada, Uncategorized

I do try and avoid clichés, but you know when people say it’s the journey not the destination, turns out they were onto something. We had finished up in Toronto, with the next stop on our list, Ottawa to visit a friend. With a fairly sizeable drive awaiting us, we decided to find a boondocker between the two to spend two nights, to explore somewhere more local (and we had a few days to kill before spending the weekend in Ottawa – shout out to those people with jobs).

We found ourselves in beautiful Prince Edward County (Ontario), at odds at where to go and what to do. Our lovely Boondocking hosts provided us with some recommendations of how to spend our time.

We headed off to explore Sandbanks provincial park, before heading down a dirt road to a little secluded pebble beach to cook some lunch (a local recommendation). A recently (last 20 years) developed wine region, we wanted to explore a winery. We decided for a smaller batch vineyard which used 100% of grapes grown in Prince Edward County. As the wine community is relatively new to the area, majority of the vineyards use grapes from other nearby regions such as Niagara. The problem with small batch vineyards, is when the wine is good it sells out. Unfortunately, Lighthall Vineyards only had their deliciously crisp sparkling left for us to try, but we had a great chat with Matt, who gave us another suggestion for a small batch vineyard who still had some pinot noir left. (We are most definitely red wine people) So off around the corner we went in search of Longdog Vineyard, to hopefully try some pinot noir.

We could have been back home on the Mornington Peninsula (for you non-aussies, that’s near Melbourne, Australia – cooler wine region known for their pinot noir). A small tasting, barn like building, nestled in a garden was a great spot for tasting a few pinots. We walked away with an artistically designed bottle of 2011 Pinot Noir, which was perfect by the campfire that evening.

Heading for home, we figured a glass of red and our books would be a lovely afternoon, however we didn’t quiet make it home before ending up at Parsons Brewing Company, and boy are we glad we were enticed as we drove past.

Brent had done some brewery research (as always) of the area when we first arrived but we decided to opt for some wineries rather than the brewery. So we knew Parsons was relatively new and was family owned, so when we drove past the beautiful grounds we had to stop in.

All we can say is – A highlight of our trip.

 

Sitting outside in the beautifully designed brewery, we tried their awesome range of beers, and cannot recommend their coffee stouts enough!! We had the privilege of meeting Samantha & Chris Parsons and their kids, sharing stories of travelling and our bus conversion. We also met Kirk, who provided us with some great recommendations for Nova Scotia. It was a great afternoon, meeting some awesome people and drinking delicious beers. Afternoons such as this, is one of our absolute favourite thing about trip.

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We headed back to our ‘home’, after a wonderful day in Prince Edward County. Before heading off in the morning we stopped into The Brake Room for a coffee and again were overwhelmed with the hospitality of the locals!

All in all, it has been one of our favourite places on our trip so far!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cities – It’s a love-hate Relationship

Canada

 

When you pack your life into a 18ft bus and quit your jobs, there is generally a want for something more (or less). Whether it is more adventures, spontaneity, experiences and freedom or less possessions, screen times and stress. For us, this nomadic lifestyle we are chasing (if albeit temporarily), life lessons are (generally speaking) something we welcome as part of day to day life.

This trip for us, has significantly altered where we will eventually settle, not that we had been big city people before but the more and more time we spend away from cities, exploring national parks and rural towns, the less time went want to spend when we come across a bit city.

For us, this became evidently clearer after some time in Toronto (and the drive away from Toronto, the urban sprawl was uninterrupted for miles upon miles well beyond what would be considered the city limits).

A beautiful city, with culturally and socially so much to offer, we definitely enjoyed our few days around Toronto but we are not in a hurry back.

We were again Boondocking, outside the city in a suburb called Oakville on a 10-acre farm, which was quickly being swallowed by estate developments on all sides. It was an easy 40 minutes journey by train into downtown, as always first up was find the caffeine. We found a great spot called Quantum Coffee which made a mean cold press (if you haven’t worked it out by now, we are extremely particular about our love of coffee – it’s a Melbourne thing).

We always find we get the best feel for a city on foot, exploring the different areas and hopefully avoiding the more touristy areas. We still explore around the big sights, because they are generally big sights for a reason, right? But a walk around the base and surround blocks of the CN Tower in Toronto was more than enough for us.

We made our way along the beautiful waterfront, towards the ferries with an afternoon on the islands in mind. The great thing about the ferries, is it’s a return trip for $7CAD and there are three ferries onto different parts of the island you can go one way and head back another. We wandered throughout the islands, before realizing we should have brought our bikes (allowing us to explore more in our time there than on foot). We conceded the money to hire a tandem bicycle (this trip is about testing limits, right? So, a tandem was definitely a good idea). We spent the afternoon exploring the numerous islands, yacht clubs and houses, a beautiful area which exuded community in every sense of the word. So much so, on the train ride home we googled the community to gain a better understanding of who lives there, how they acquired the properties and how they maintain it to a particular style of living and architecture. (if you’ve got some time to kill, it’s an interesting read about the application process to be added to the buyers list etc.).

We wandered around the financial district to avoid the chaos of the 5pm peak hour train, before heading back for an evening by the fire with a glass of wine.

As we headed towards Ottawa, we backtracked to Niagara Falls for a quick visit, wandered between the two falls for an hour or so before making some lunch in the bus and heading on our way.

 

Lets Go Blue!

usa

So we figured if we were going to head to a college football match, we should head to the biggest stadium in the USA and the home to one of the best teams. We headed out of Chicago towards Michigan & the big house as it’s affectionately known.IMG_3292

Michigan stadium at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor holds over 100 000 people, as well as a designated section for students which was packed (the solid yellow section is the students). Something in Australia we just don’t do anywhere near to the extent of the USA, is school spirit and getting around the University’s sporting teams.

It’s pretty intimidating (and awesome) when a quarter of the stadium is students all dressed in bright yellow and have choreographed dances and chants. The crowd was a record (approx.) 111 000 people and plus the huge amount of people who were tailgating around the stadium with very impressive rigs, with full sign writing in team colours as well as huge flag poles. It puts our displays of sporting allegiance even on grand final weekends to shame, and this was just another Saturday game in college football.

Similar to ice hockey, watching on TV it is annoyingly difficult to keep up the plays and understand the game. But in person, it is easier to gain a better (if only slightly) better understanding of the game and the rules.

It was a quick pit stop in Ann Arbor to watch the Michigan Wolverines play but definitely worthwhile. It’s pretty impressive when the whole stadium chants together ‘Let’s Go blue.’

Hopefully we can catch another college football match somewhere along our travels and perhaps try our hand at tailgating!

 

Quick Trip to The Windy City

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Both Brent & I had previously visited Chicago, and couldn’t wait to head back. We spent two days, wandering throughout the city enjoying the beautiful weather (and a little bit of rain). We had organized a place to park out of the city, in Riverside which meant an easier train ride into Union station.

We started off by finding the best coffee I had found 5 years ago, Intelligentsia Coffee was everything I remembered! Great service and delicious coffee, was the perfect start to our morning. We spent time wandering through Millennium Park, and found a quiet spot to eat our lunch and enjoy the view of the lake. We wandered around the Waterfront as well as took the opportunity to get a few errands done in a city. We also were able to catch up with a friend of Brent’s from Montreal who happened to be in Chicago for work, which was great.

Day two was early birthday celebrations for Brent, with a sleep in before heading to a brewery and a white sox game (my first & last baseball game). We found a great little sandwich shop in Riverside before jumping on the train to Union Station. Filled with locals, the sandwiches were to die for! Once in the city we headed for Baderbrau Brewery near the convention centre, which was a brewery/ gallery space which served some great beers. We thought we should exercise our competitive sides and played a game of scrabble while we sampled their beers.

We headed to watch the white sox who were slaughtered by Cleveland. Myself, having never been to a baseball game it was a cool experience but very much like watching cricket, slow and not a huge amount happens a lot of the time. I don’t think I’m in any hurry to see another game of baseball.

We headed into town to meet up with our host for a few beers before heading home. A quick trip to Chicago but we both loved being back in this beautiful city when it wasn’t freezing cold!

 

Hello Wisconsin (& Minnesota)

Uncategorized

The Twin Cities were on our bucket list but we wanted to stay out of the urban sprawl as much as possible (otherwise parking is just a pain). The bus does fit into a normal sized car park (just) but parking in cities is always stressful and we are trying to avoid unnecessary stress as much as possible.

So it was a perfect opportunity to try Boon docking for the first time, an awesome community shared by The Simple Venture, which connects you with people who offer their backyards or driveways to park and stay in RVs (or buses in our case). Most seem to be RVers themselves, who both host and stay depending if they are home or travelling. We found ourselves just on the border of Wisconsin and Minnesota outside the riverside town of Houlton and Stillwater, nestled among the trees in their backyard. We spent the evening getting to know our hosts by the fire and their three gorgeous dogs!

The next day, after a fairly manageable ride into Stillwater (across the border), we explored the local breweries and riverfront town.

Here are our recommendations for a day in Stillwater Minnesota

Cycle – with a brand new (almost complete) bike loop across the bridges and around the town it was very easy to explore by bike, but unless you are ready to justify the hills for a beer or two later on, then exploring by foot is just as good.

Breweries – starting off with Maple Island brewing, a great little spot by the river, with some good staple beers. We headed up the hill (literally the biggest one in the town) to Lift Bridge Brewing, although a bit further out of town it is 100% worth the ride. Board games and great beers as well as a book full of local restaurants that deliver to the brewery for you! We took their recommendation and wandered around the corner to a little deli supermarket for a lunch bag (I’ll give you more details in the food recommendation).

After dinner our hosts took us to one of their favourite breweries in neighbouring Somerset. Oliphant Brewing has hands down been one of our top breweries of this trip. With a unique 20 beers on tap, we would highly recommend a tasting flight as you need to try their weird and wacky brews. A little place we never would have found without the local knowledge.

Food – we had been recommended a little pub place in downtown Stillwater for lunch, but we found our stomachs grumbling after the gruelling uphill ride to Lift Bridge Brewery. They recommended we head around the corner to the deli supermarket Brines. This amazing little grocery store and deli, served up two lunch bags with sandwich, pickles, crisps and cookies in adorable paper bags for us to take back to the brewery to enjoy with a pint. It wasn’t until we were eating the delicious sandwiches that we realized it was the grocery store of the pub we had been recommended in downtown. So, whether you are downtown or in the burbs, a must eat is Brines Deli.

Day Three we headed into the twin cities, with our hosts who showed us around the two cities. It is crazy these two cities exist so close yet so separate. After a few churches, an art gallery, sculpture garden, architecture, the falls and a delicious lunch we headed back to Stillwater to be on our way, heading for Duluth on Lake Superior armed with a few local tips from Amy & Keith.

We had a wonderful three days in Wisconsin/Minnesota, and wouldn’t hesitate to head back!