Slowing Down And Smelling The Flowers

Have you ever done something you thought would be a good idea but were uncertain about, and in the end, it turned out to be a great idea? Such is the case with the building of Violet the campervan. Many of you know that in 2018 I converted a Ram Promaster high-top van into a camper. I had a basic conversion done via Wayfarer Vans in Colorado Springs, and I have been adding to the build ever since.  

There is nothing like having a house on wheels. Yes, standard RVs may offer some additional amenities, but their bulky size and price make them less than ideal for my purposes. My little van is spacious enough to live in, yet it fits nicely into a standard parking slot.  

I’m always desperate to travel out West, but gas prices have kept me local this year. However, this has turned out to be a plus as it has forced me to explore the wonders of the Midwest. Last month, I took separate trips to Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and most recently, Minnesota.

Julie’s parents are aging, and we want to visit them more often. However, we don’t want to burden them by staying at their place. In addition, her job can be stressful, so combining a visit with a mini-vacation seemed like a great idea.

She is our trip planner and tasked herself with finding a campground and some activities. Although I like to boondock when I solo travel, I usually stay at a campground when I travel with her as I want the experience to be as pleasant as possible. The nicer the amenities, the more likely she will come along on my next adventure.

Although she takes on the travel itinerary, I assume the rest of the preparation responsibilities, so the week before our trip involved many tasks. For example, washing the outside of the van, cleaning its inside, stocking the pantry, buying special foods she likes, planning meals, etc. All of this is time-consuming, but I have plenty of time.  

This trip took us to Taylors Falls, Minnesota, and the Wildwood Campground. Campground hosts and campers are typically amiable, and this place was no exception. We were welcomed to the campground and quickly dispatched to our site. One of the luxuries of camping at an actual campground is the “facility.” No cat hole digging or sponge baths are needed! Taking a shower at home seems routine, but having a real shower when camping feels like a bonafide luxury. 

Yes, we try to do some fun activities when we camp, but daily activities are also joyful. Everything takes longer when camping. Hygiene activities take planning. When the evening cools down, extra time is required to build a fire. Even cooking a simple meal is more involved than when at home. Yes, it may take longer to cut vegetables using my trusty Buck knife, but it does the job. Interestingly, food tastes better when you put just a little more effort into its preparation, and meals become a significant part of the day, as opposed to the eating-on-the-run that happens too often in the real world.

On this trip, we kayaked down the scenic St. Crox river one day and toured several quaint towns on another. Naturally, we also spent a day visiting Julie’s parents. They are in their 90s, and I was concerned about over-taxing them. We planned to bring them lunch and then walk to give them a little break afterward. We would return for a short visit after our walk and leave before we overstayed. However, to my surprise, they wanted us to stay longer, which we were delighted to do. I lost my parents many decades ago, so it is especially lovely to have a close relationship with Julie’s parents. They have always been gracious and welcoming to me, which is much appreciated.

If you separate our activities over the last four days, many would seem mundane. However, they add up to a lovely mini-trip when you explore them in total. Julie gained some needed R-and-R and I got an extra shot of adventure.

See the photos below for some details in photos.  

One of the first things that I added to Violet the campervan were swivels for the front seats. However, I never used them. I’m glad that this became one of Julie’s favorite features.
Over the years I have made my morning coffee in a variety of ways from using a percolator, to camper coffee, to using a pour-over system. However, Keurig pods seem to work out the best for me. Surprisingly, making a cup of coffee consumes very little electric power from my house battery.
We kayaked 7 miles down the St. Croix river, and it was beautiful! I was afraid to bring a camera or my phone due to fear of getting them wet. However, I regretted that decision as the views were spectacular. All I have to show for the adventure are these soaking wet clothes that we “artfully” dried on an available picnic table. You have to be creative when camping!
Julie’s parents live on this lake and have a summer home on another lake. When I was dating her I asked her why they would have a summer home on a lake when they already lived on one. “Oh the second lake is a Walleye lake,” she said knowingly.
Her hometown only had a few thousand people when she grew up and everything was a short walk away. It has now grown but it has retained its charm.
Meal prep takes longer when using a Buck knife and a paper plate “cutting board.”
Ingredients ready for some breakfast burritos.
Burritos done! When possible I’ll cook outside. A little Frank’s Hot Sauce adds spice to life!
Visiting beautiful Taylors Falls/Interstate State Park.
A view of the St. Croix and a riverboat.
Julie enjoyed the beautiful weather.
How about steak on an open campfire? I bought this little grate on Amazon and used it for the first time on this trip.
Dinner is served… Yes, no vegetables. I’ll do better next time.
The charming town of Stillwater, Minnesota is famous for its lift bridge which is now used for pedestrians and bikes. Cross it and you are in Wisconsin.
Stillwater features a shop that sells sodas of every type imaginable.
I love local coffee shops. Here Julie is enjoying the scenery.
When you are the photographer no one takes your picture. I’m stuck in selfie mode.
It was raining on our last morning so it was time to cook inside on the ol’induction burner.
Time for some Avocado Toast!