Exploring Minnesota

Minnesota was the state where we spent a week at the top end of our Great river road trip in May and June 2012. We went right to the source of this mighty river.


See where the big river begins its journey

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by catsholiday on January 21, 2013

Itasca State Park Minnesota

When reading through one of our many travel books we came across this place and discovered that this is where the headwaters of the Great Mississippi; where the big mighty river starts on its journey. Just before we went we noticed that Trevor MacDonald was presenting a three part series about the Mississippi and the last programme was the part of the great River Road that we planned on driving.

Itasca State Park was a good three hour drive from where we were staying in Onamia and obviously we had to drive back again so it was a full day trip. We took a packed lunch and set off early as we wanted to make sure we had enough time in the park.

This was a long drive and an awful lot of it was along long straight roads with trees either side so not a lot to see and quite boring after a while. We did make it a circular tour and came back a different way from the way we went and called in to see a big Paul Bunyan statue in Akeley and we also made our way to Bemidji right on lake Bemidji where there was another large Bunyan statue with Babe the blue Ox as well. You can see there were a limited number of things to see and do in the area as we drove all day and added an extra hour each way to get to Bemidji!! We are mad I know but we do like to find odd things to see and they don’t come much odder than these huge statues.

PERMITS AND OPENING TIMES
$5 Daily permit for car and its occupants
$25 Year-round vehicle permit
$18 Additional vehicle permit
$12 Special permit (requires proof of handicap and proof of vehicle ownership)
$20 Motorcycle permit (fits in a wallet; not attached to windshield)
Disabled veterans and active duty military personnel can get discounted permits.

The park is open year round but the visitor centres are only open from 8:00 a.m. – 10.00 p.m. every day of the year.

ITASCA STATE PARK
The park is Minnesota's oldest state park and was originally created in 1891.The park covers more than 32,000 acres and includes more than 100 lakes. Its biggest claim to fame is that here you can actually walk across the Mississippi as it starts its 2,552 miles journey to the Gulf of Mexico.

We had limited time for our visit so we planned on going to two of the visitor centres and then to the Headwaters for a paddle and some photos before making our way on to Bemidji.
We took the Main Park drive which was six miles around and passed the Jacob V. Bower Visitor Centre then onto the Mary Gibbs Centre and the Headwaters area.

JACOB V. BOWER VISITOR CENTRE
This centre is open every day except Christmas and Thanksgiving Day but times do change so check times on the website if you are going .

This centre had exhibits about the park’s culture and natural history. More specifically there were exhibits about the parks special red and white pine forests which apparently Itasca contains 25% of those remaining original trees.and how they were exploited and now protected. There was also a really good exhibit about how the Mississippi river was explored and how it was used over the years and how it has changed.

There were also nice clean toilets here which we made use of before going on our way. This centre is also a nice warm place to shelter along the trail when cross country skiing. There is also a small gift shop but we passed on this as we try to avoid buying bits we have to find a home for when we get back. For those staying in the park or who want to check on the internet there is wifi access available here.

MARY GIBBS VISITOR CENTRE

This was a bit bigger than the previous centre and had a cafe so we decided it was coffee time as we had been driving for about three hours plus. The cafe was clean and the coffee good and I enjoyed a muffin while my husband chose a sandwich.

We didn’t hang around too long as we were anxious to make our way to the headwaters before thousands of other people were there to get in our photos. My husband has a pet hate of having unknown people in our photos!

THE HEADWATERS
Apart from being able to walk across the Mississippi in the shallow waters paddling through chilly water across pebbles that are not very easy to walk on. You can also balance on the stepping stones but again these are slippery so do be careful. Here the river is a tiny twelve feet across which makes it hard to imagine it becoming the huge river only a few miles away.

After walking across , paddling and exploring the river we then went and had the obligatory photo standing next to the sign.
" Here 1475 feet above the ocean the mighty Mississippi begins to flow on its winding way 1552 miles to the Gulf of Mexico."

THERE IS SO MUCH MORE
There are of course many trails which can be used for hiking and in winter for cross country skiing and more. Other trails are used in winter for snow mobiles and others for snow shoes . There is a board walk trail for wheel chairs and wheel chairs can get down to the headwaters too. A paved trail for bikes is popular in summer.

There are also boat launching ramps on the lakes, camping grounds with cabins and facilities and so on.
The park is a beautiful unspoilt area with huge trees and local wildlife. We were not there long enough to see any wildlife but did enjoy the Main drive and the two visitor centres and of course the Headwaters where we had our paddle and took lots of photos.

RECOMMENDED?
If you like unusual things then visiting the place where the Mighty Mississippi begins has to be on the list for you. This park is not really near anywhere and Minnesota is a very rural state so you do have to be prepared to drive for long distances to see anything.

We did enjoy following the Mississippi river up from Dubuque in Iowa right to the Headwaters in Itasca . We saw some interesting sights along the way from the huge dams and the long barges and many lovely little towns . It is a journey i would recommend if you are happy driving and like to go with the flow, changing plans when you find something of interest and not having any really set in stone places to see along the way.
Itasca State Park Mississippi Headwaters
36750 Main Park Drive
Park Rapids, Minnesota, 56470
(218) 266-2100

A Dream of Flying - part 2

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by catsholiday on January 20, 2013

Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Site
1620 Lindbergh Drive Southwest,
Little Falls,
MN 56345,

THE HOUSE
We were enjoying the museum but were aware that we would be called when the next tour of the house was due as that was the one we were on. Numbers in the house are limited and you can only go into the house as part of a guided tour.

As we walked over to the house with our guide she stopped on the way to tell us something about the young Charles along the lines of the bits I have already mentioned. She told us he was not a great student but loved to invent and build and mess about on the river and with machinery. He was driving at the age of about thirteen and flying solo by the age of 20.

She showed us a small duck pond that the young Charles had created using cement for the ducks to use which still is there and holds water today; it is not beautiful but did the job and has not fallen apart.

The house has much of the original furniture in there and each room has a story. The kitchen has a groove in the floor where Charles scarped a coal bucket across it. There was also a hole in the wall where he would hide his treasures when they left the house in the winter months that used to have a secret door.

It was a rather odd house with hall that had so many doors leading from it that could confuse visitors. Charles liked to sleep in the extension at the back with a view of the river; he did this even in winter which must have been really cold with no heating.

The other rooms were as they had been in the Lindbergh’s time with all original pieces of furniture and other bits.

Even as a young boy Charles would be responsible for cutting the logs and keeping the huge boiler under the house going. This boiler was huge and filled half the basement, it looked like it belonged in a factory rather than a house.

Also under the house in the garage is the fully restored car that the young Charles drive his mother across the states in. It had been taken apart to build his first plane ‘Jenny; but enthusiasts have restored it back to its original condition. You can’t imagine someone allowing a thirteen year old to drive it as it was huge and I suspect he could barely see out of the front windscreen. I don’t expect it was an automatic either but I may be wrong and in the olden days gears were complicated as they were NOT synchromesh and you had to double de clutch to change gear! I have tried and it is really difficult to do so if he managed this he was indeed very skillful.

Charles Lindbergh returned to see the house and said "I can even connect the Mississippi, here, with aviation. One day, before the First World War began, when I was upstairs playing in our house, I heard an unusually loud engine noise. I ran to the window and climbed out onto the roof. There was an airplane flying upriver, below the treetops on the banks. I learned that it was carrying passengers from a field near Little Falls. Of course I wanted to fly in it, but my mother said that it would be much too expensive and dangerous."

Little did she know at that time that her son would become one of the most famous aviators in history.

Sadly he and his wife had their son kidnapped in 1932 and sadly despite a huge ransom being paid for information his body was found some weeks later accidently.

The Lindbergh family then moved to Europe and lived in Kent for some years to escape the press harassment. He led an interesting life and pre WWII he was advising the Germans on the aircraft and knew what they had was superior to the allies as war broke out.

He became very unpopular as he made speeches against America joining WWII as he felt it was not their war. He also appears to have been somewhat of a racist Lindbergh said certain races have "demonstrated superior ability in the design, manufacture, and operation of machines." He further said, "The growth of our western civilization has been closely related to this superiority." This didn’t win him many fans either.

He did take an active role in flying in the Pacific after the US joined the war and those pilots who flew with him praised his skills as a pilot and his patriotism.

After the war from the 1960s Lindbergh didn’t just sit back and do nothing he was a great traveler and also very keep on conservation and nature and spent his life promoting conservation around the world.

All in all we found this a really interesting and I learned a place to visit and I learned a lot about Charles Lindbergh and his life beyond the famous flight.

The guide was excellent and told us lots of little stories about Lindbergh as a boy and things that happened in the house and so on. She was not only well informed but made everything very interesting and at times quite amusing too.

The museum alone is worth a visit but if you can do both then do as it makes it feel quite personal and almost as though you are looking through a window into his life as a youngster. It looks like a pretty normal house from the outside but once inside the secrets are all revealed by the guide and you really feel you know Lindbergh a lot better.

RECOMMENDED?
Yes indeed I love visiting places like this where you find out so much about the people who lived there. It makes them so much more of a real person rather than just a name you read about in history.

If you are passing through Minnesota near Little Falls make a short detour and find this place as you will be impressed I assure you.

Charles A Lindbergh House
1620 Lindbergh Drive Southwest
Minnesota, United States, 56345
(320) 616-5421

A Dream of Flying - part 1

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by catsholiday on January 20, 2013

Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Site
1620 Lindbergh Drive Southwest,
Little Falls,
MN 56345,

We had this place on our list of places that we wanted to see on our road tour holiday in the states in June 2012. It did take some finding as it was not well signed and was some way out of Little Falls itself.

Considering how famous this man is and the place he holds in aviation history I cannot understand why his house and the museum are not better known. They are not owned by the National Parks but rather but the state of Minnesota and I think they should do more to publicize the place.

In 1931, the Lindbergh family gave the whole 110 acres and the house to the State of Minnesota to create a State Park and in 1969, the house and nearby seventeen acres were separated from the rest of the State park and given to the Minnesota Historical Society so that they could be preserved and the museum was built to tell the Lindbergh story and house special exhibits and memorabilia.

I had of course, heard of Charles Lindbergh and was aware that he had been the first to fly non stop across the Atlantic but I really had no idea that he had been quite so young and also how many had failed before him. I also had no idea that he did this in such a tiny aircraft. My husband could barely fit in the cockpit of the model they had in the museum.

THE PRICES AND TIMES
Admission: $8 adults, $7 seniors and college students, $6 children ages 6-17; free for children age 5 and under and Minnesota Historic Society members.

Hours: Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend: Thursday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sundays, noon to 5 p.m. Open Memorial Day and Labor Day.


THE LINDBERGH STORY
He was born in Detroit in 1902 but Charles spent most of his childhood and younger years growing up in this house and was greatly influenced by his mother. His parents separated in 1909 and his father lived apart from them much of the time through a sort of mutual agreement even before that. His father was a U.S. Congressman from 1907 to 1917 who was most noted for his opposition to the entry of the U.S. into World War I. His mother was a chemistry teacher at Little Falls High School, from which Charles graduated in 1918.

He had a rather odd relationship with his mother they were extremely close and I think she was quite controlling but having said that I would NEVER have let my son aged 25 fly by himself across the Atlantic!!

He had been driving since he was about thirteen and the family car was driven by him at a very tender age taking his mother across several states. This car was later used as parts to build his first plane ‘ Jenny’ which was rebuilt several times after minor accidents.



THE MUSEUM

This is a modern building set about one hundred metres from the house where Lindberg grew up. It has the usual gift shop and this is where you pay your entry fee. There are also toilets here and none you can use in the house so go here before your tour of the house or wait till after the tour!

All though the museum were Charles toys and other souvenirs, his words on large screens, his dreams about flying, his first attempts and so much more. It was beautifully done and really informative too.

There was a 1920s style cinema where you could watch a film showing original footage of the famous flight from New York to Paris in the tiny plane. The Spirit of St Louis was a very small monoplane stripped of everything not absolutely essential for the flight so very few instruments; he used bits of maps for guidance. The cockpit was stripped of everything that might have made it more comfortable – the seat was basic, the cockpit open to the elements apart from the roof. He only took a few sandwiches and a bottle of water for the historic flight.

The tiny plane was a flying fire risk in that when it took off from Roosevelt Field, Long Island, New York on May 21 , 1927 The little over loaded plane, carrying over 450 gallons of fuel, only just cleared the telephone wires at the end of the runway . As it was Lindbergh had not slept the night before so was already tired and then he flew solo for 33 hours, 30 minutes, 29.8 seconds. At the time of landing he had actually not slept at all in 55 hours.


.In the museum we saw the boat motor that young Charles aged 13 had used during a trip down the Mississippi with his father. Also in the museum is the old 1959 VW beetle that Charles Lindbergh drove through four continents, including Africa and elsewhere on the ground floor we learn about his travels and his work with conservation around the world. The car has been lovingly restored by Lindbergh enthusiasts and looks as good as new now.

By far the most astounding exhibit for us was the recreation of the cockpit and main part of the Spirit of St Louis in real size. You could sit in the cockpit once you managed to climb through the frame. My husband barely fitted in there and Charles Lindbergh was tall too so he would have had the same issue with his legs. Once in the seat you couldn’t see out of the front of the plane at all, the only way he could see was out of the open sides. Heaven only knows how he managed to achieve the flight with just a pack of sandwiches, no sleep and in the freezing cold temperatures and not seeing out of the front and only bits of maps he had cut up to guide him. He cut the maps to save the weight!

I will talk about the Lindbergh house in Part 2
Charles A Lindbergh House
1620 Lindbergh Drive Southwest
Minnesota, United States, 56345
(320) 616-5421

Around Mille Lacs Lake

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by catsholiday on January 19, 2013

We spent a week in this area in June last year when we stayed at Izaty’s Resort on the edge of Mille Lacs Lake. The resort was surrounded by a golf course but sadly they didn’t rent out clubs so my husband had to spend time sightseeing with me instead. The resort was also on the lake and you could hire boats to take out and fish for the famous wall Eye and other lake fish but as neither of us are in to fishing we didn’t bother.

The area became known as Mille Lacs because the Brainerd Lakes area was known as the "Region of Thousand Lakes" (pays des mille lacs) in French. The Mille Lacs lake area is 132,516 acres of lake and is Minnesota’s second largest lake and is supposedly the best fishing area found anywhere.

This area is real rural country side America and the area has thousands of lakes hence the name as well as forests and trials. This is an area where people go to enjoy hunting, shooting and fishing as well as camping, walking, snow skiing and sledging as well as snowmobiles. In winter the lakes freeze and hundreds if not thousands of small sheds are taken onto the lakes and stay there all winter. They are for ice fishing and these hundreds and thousands of wooden sheds are known as ‘Frost bite City ‘. We saw many of these sheds around the place awaiting their return to the frozen lake in winter. I would love to see this but my dislike of cold weather does somewhat put me off and we rarely go back to the same place as we have so many new places to see on our lists.

WALLEYE IS DELICIOUS
Just down the road from Onamia was a small town called Isle which was about ten minutes from where we were staying. This was in fact our nearest supermarket too so we did visit Isle a couple of times. This giant walleye statue is proudly displayed in front of a Bait and Tackle store just about a mile outside Isle on Hwy 47. Isle itself is a small town on Mille Lacs Lake, famous as many others are in the area for fishing both in summer and winter. Isle once claimed the title of "Walleye Capital of the World" and this huge statue walleye once had a sign boasting just that but I believe several towns in the area boast that same claim so maybe it is the entire area that is the ‘Walleye capital of the World.’

The giant walleye has a partner here in the form of a giant ‘Muskie’ another fairly fearsome looking fish also caught in the lakes in the area. It costs nothong to visit these fish and there are platforms provided for you to pose in front of these rather ugly looking beats and have your photo taken.

If you were impressed with these two giants then you can see another giant walleye statue in Garrison which was quite some twenty miles away following the lake side around. This walleye was slightly larger than the one at Isle and was positioned in a park area near a small tourist information booth. You could take photos in front of this walleye with Mille Lacs lake behind it. The fifteen foot walleye is said to have been caught by the giant Paul Bunyan after a three day struggle he eventually wrapped the line around the horns of his blue Ox Babe and landed the fish on Garrison beach. When we were there we popped into the little tourist info booth and the lady in there was a delight and kept us there chatting for about fifteen minutes.
Garrison is also famous for being the world's smallest city to have a McDonald's restaurant. A dubious claim to fame but interesting however despite that we didn’t call in to this famous restaurant!

I have to say apart from these giants the closest we came to the famous walleye was to eat it in the local restaurants and very tasty it was too. It was a white fish, moist and not too strongly fishy and very few bones when filleted. We did discover that they are protected by limited the number that can be caught by each fisherman who pays for a license. They are also limited as to the size they can catch too.

KATHIO STATE PARK

This was one of two state parks close by to Mille Lacs lake and we did pay a visit and climb the 100foot fire tower as well as drive through the park and take a walk through one of the trails. The park has plenty of camp sites and also has rental boats and in winter snow mobiles and more can be rented. The park has several lakes and plenty of walking, horse riding and various snow trials in winter.

FATHER HENNEPIN STATE PARK
Father Hennepin State Park is just outside the town of Isle on the southeast shore of Mille Lacs Lake. This is a park right on Mille Lacs lake shore and there is a lovely sandy beach for swimming, two boat accesses, fishing piers and picnic sites with a stunning views of the lake. The park is 320 acres in size so not huge as parks go but there are two campgrounds . There are a number of hiking trails through the hardwood forest and along the shoreline of Mille Lacs. We visited this park early one morning and watched a beautiful sunrise over the lake and watched some people fishing however we still didn’t see a real walleye coming out of the lake!

MILLE LACS INDIAN MUSEUM AND TRADING POST
This was not too far from where we were staying in Onamia and on the Indian reservation. I have written a review on this place already but suffice to say it was a fascinating place and the guides were knowledgeable and so interesting to listen too. We had a really good few hours here and were very impressed with the Four season exhibit on life for the Ojibwe people through the year.

GRAND CASINO
This was on the Indian reservation and looked huge and pretty impressive but we were not interested in losing our money through gambling so didn’t visit.

MILLE LACS LAKE HISTRICAL SOCIETY MUSEUM


This tiny little museum was in Isle but sadly each time we went to try and visit it was closed. It looked like a small wood cabin from the outside but may well have been bigger once you entered as it may have gone through to buildings behind. It is only open a few hours each week and we seemed to miss it Friday 10-7p, Saturday 10a-4p, Sunday 1-3p, May – September and then in the off season by appointment only. It is supposed to enlighten the visitor about activities in the area over the years including fur trading, logging industry, railroads, pioneer settlements and farming. Sadly I can’t tell you much more but other visitors may be luckier.

SUNDAY MARKET
There was a flea market and farmers market in Isle which we went to and bought some lovely fresh bread and fruit. The farmers market was quite good but the lea market made me very sad as people were selling junk just to try and get a few pennies as the area has been hit with the latest recession quite badly.

PAUL BUNYAN LAND
This amusement park was 7 miles east of Brainerd and has a talking statue of Paul with a statue of Babe. We called in to see this but the tickets were stupidly expensive and from what we could see the park was aimed at yound families with children and so we declined spending about £10 each to see the statue. They cleverly placed this where you couldn’t see it until you went in the park. We were even more fed up when we found the restaurant was closed and we couldn’t even have a cup of coffee as this was about 35 miles from where we were staying! We were NOT impressed.

Paul Bunyan is a mythical giant lumberjack who travels with his giant blue Ox Babe and is said to have achieved a variety of amazing fetes depending on where you hear the story. We visited a few of his statues while in the USA this time.

WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO THERE?

The area is really a great outdoor pursuits heaven and you can go snow mobiling along trails in winter, cross country skiing, ice fishing on the lake and in summer fishing, hunting, ATVing, boating and sailing as well as bird watching and looking at, rather than killing the wildlife while hiking along the many trials . You can also camp in cabins or tents at a huge number of campsites with facilities.
Lake Mille Lacs
HCR 67
Brainerd, Minnesota, 56359
320-532-3632

Find out about the Ojibwe People

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by catsholiday on January 15, 2013

In June last year 2012 we spent a week in Onamia on Mille Lacs lake and this was one of the few places to spend time exploring in the area.

TIMES AND PRICES
The museum is open from April 4 through Oct. 31, Wednesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Also open Tuesdays from Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Groups of ten or more can be admitted at any time through special arrangement
Admission: $8 adults, $7 seniors and college students, $6 children ages 6-17; free for children age 5 and under.
There is a Trading post shop beside the museum and this is open all year round except in January, Wednesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

THE MILLE LACS MUSEUM
The Mille Lacs tribe were Ojibwe ( Ojibwa ) American Indians and there are still members of this band in the area and there is a reservation not far from the museum. The museum aims to show a little of the tribes culture, their beliefs, their way of life and what they currently do to preserve their culture, language, music and dance.
The Museum tells the story of how the Ojibjwe tribe traveled northwards to eventually settle around the shores of Mille Lac Lake and other parts of north Minnesota and how they adapted to the cooler climate of the area.
The museum is huge,modern and very open so that the exhibits are spaced well and plenty of written information is put near the exhibits. It has a very welcoming feel about the place and at no time did we feel crowded or rushed and there were knowledgeable staff there to ask any questions too which we did.

The most impressive part of the museum is the huge atrium sort of central area which is set up as a scene with four distinct parts each representing the different seasons. The scene shows the Ojibwe people going about their tasks for that season and also shows animals and vegetation that you would see at the time.

This was impressive enough by itself and you could learn a lot by just looking but at specific times one of the museum staff came and gave a fascinating talk about the display and took us through each season and what the tribes would be doing at the time.

It was really well done as we could actually see the display at the same time as we were being told what they were doing and how they caught fish, trapped animals, dried and cured the skins, made their boats, harvested rice and so one.

One thing I found interesting is that they sunk their canoes in the winter prior to the lake freezing and that way they were protected from weather damage and also hidden from other potential users while the tribe moved away from the lake in winter.

The museum was not just a display it was also a facility used by the Ojibwe to carry on their traditions and a craft room was used by local people and also visitors could go and learn about traditional cooking, birch bark basketry and beadwork as well as other crafts.

There are also videos and interactive computer activities, places where you could listen to information and also of course many objects and artifacts all helping to give the visitor a really good idea of Ojibwe traditions and indeed about their lives today too.

I was also impressed with the actual building which was full of light from the wall of windows. The window wall is curved and arches and was designed to reflect the shoreline of Lake Mille Lacs. The main wood used is local cedar and the exterior is highlighted with a copper dome and an there is a lovely traditionally inspired section made of ceramic tiles designed by a local elder called Batiste Sam.

The Indian tribes do not have to abide by all US laws and taxes on the Indian reservations and that is why so many of them have casinos on them as this is a great way of the tribe earning money.

OJIBWE TODAY
The Ojibwe tribe is a tribe of of more than 4,300 people and the main reservation is located in East Central Minnesota.

The tribal government works in the same way of the US government and has a legislative branch, the Band Assembly, which makes the laws and assigns the money to be used by the tribe. The executive branch implements Band laws and administers the Band’s programs and services. There is also a Tribal Court. The Band’s tribal government employs approximately 700 people full time which is quite a large number of people.
I was interested to hear that the Schools have an Ojibwe Language and Culture Program which encourages Elders to share their wisdom and knowledge. Elders are respected and in order to have them live in the community they have a number of assisted living house on the reservation.

There are also ceremonial buildings and the youngsters are encouraged to learn their traditional Ojibwe language, ceremonies, and other traditional activities such as wigwam construction and sugarbushing (making maple sugar). It was also interesting to learn that many Ojibwe still use traditional hunting and fishing practices.

.I found it a fascinating visit and I learned a lot about the tribe and how they lived in the past in the traditional way and I was impressed with the fact that they are taking care that their traditions and culture is passed to the next generation.

THE TRADING POST OR GIFT SHOP
Next to the museum is a restored trading post with an old petrol pump outside so that it looks as it might have done in the 1930s. The shop is more than a gift shop as local tribes people meet here and share their expertise in craft making. On sale are many locally made items and items traditionally used by tribe’s people. They also had postcards and some locally grown and cooked foodstuff such as wild rice and corn of different colours.

This was a beautifully presented museum and the guide was excellent; she really knew her stuff and told the stories in such a lively and interesting way. We spent a couple to three hours in the museum listening to the guide, enjoying the exhibits and reading about the Ojibwe people today.

If you are in the area I would certainly recommend a visit to this really well presented modern and informative museum.

Mille Lacs Indian Museum & Trading Post
43411 Oodena Drive
Onamia, MN, 56359
(320) 532-3632

View from the tower

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by catsholiday on January 15, 2013

Mille Lacs Kathio State Park
15066 Kathio State Park Road
Onamia, MN 56359

HOWTO FIND THE PARK
We passed the sign many times before we decided to go and visit. If in the Mille Lacs area then Go to mile post marker #221 on US Hwy 169, about 8 miles north of Onamia. Watch for the Kathio Arrowhead sign and take County Road 26 for about a mile, to the park entrance. It is dead easy to find and well signed

A BIT ABOUT KATHIO AND ITS NAME
The area around the park is known as "Mille Lacs," a French term used by early explorers and fur traders, means "1,000 lakes.". However "Kathio" is said to come from the incorrectly written Izathys but the name Kathio stuck despite the fact it means nothing at all significant.

PRICES AND TIMES
This is a State park NOT a National Park so the ‘America the Beautiful ‘ card does not work here. You can however usually buy a ticket which will allow you in any state park over a day which is worth it if you have a few you want to visit.
The day pass cost us $5 for our car but anannual pass only cost $25 so well worth it if you lived locally.

WHAT IS THERE?

This is a natural reserve with camping facilities and lots of trails to explore.
In the park there are 35 miles of hiking trails, 27 miles of horse trails which are Open from May 15 - October 31 and finally 2 miles of nature trails.

There is a really tall viewing tower from which you can see for miles around.

You can rent Canoes, kayaks and rowing boats in the summer which cost $10.00 for 4 hours or less and $20.00 for all day.

In the winter months, cross-country skis can be hired for $10.00 per day and snowshoes for $6.00 per day.

THE TOWER
This tower is pretty basic and was built as a fire observation tower but visitors are allowed to climb the tower when it is open. There is a padlocked metal gate to lock it when it is not open. It can be closed when it is windy, too heavy rain or in the ice and snow when it is dangerous to climb the steps and be up the tower.

We climbed this 100ft tower and I have to say by the time we reached the top my legs were a bit wobbly. This was not an activity for those with a fear of heights as it is an open tower with ladder type of metal steps.

Once you reach the top you get a pretty amazing view of the area around. You can see trees as far as the eye can see and a number of lakes including Mille Lacs Lake which is huge and looks like an inland sea from there.

CAMPING

There are two wheel chair accessible sites and these also have wheel chair accessible showers and toilets. The camp sites have varying levels of facilities and tend to be small and secluded.

There are also five log cabins and one of these is wheel chair accessible. They all sleep 5 (wheel chair one) or six and have electricity and a screened porch. These are available for rent all year round.

TRAILS

There are many trails in the park and one which is a mile long is along a board walk and is wheel chair accessible and begins at the visitor centre.

Other trails vary from a mile and a half through to thirty five miles and other lengths in between. Each trail is well signed and there are different things to see along the way.

There is also a horse trail which is closed in winter and apparently there are too many bugs around to be pleasant in summer.

In winter there are separate snow trails for cross country skiing, snowmobiles and snow shoes which we didn’t experience as we were there in June.

AND SO MUCH MORE

Aside from walking and those recreational activities mentioned before there are other possibilities such as forty different picnic sites, a playground near the lakeside where there is also a picnic area. There is a public access for canoes on the Rum River. In the summer there is also a swimming beach ( lake ) in the park. Nearby there is a golf course but this is not in the park but those camping there can make use of it for a fee.

In winter there is a warming cabin at the visitor centre with a fireplace, picnic tables and toilets which is open daily during park hours which are from 10am till 5pm in winter.

Also next to the visitor centre and the warming shelter is a sliding hill where youngsters can learn to sledge, or slide down in any way they want.

There are also opportunities to ice fish in the lakes in and around the park and apparently there is huge town of wooden cabins out on the ice on Mille Lacs lake in winter all on the ice they call it ‘Frostbite city’.

Part of me really wanted to see this city on the lake but another part of me was pretty relieved that we had warmth and sunshine rather than so cold it froze the lake. Perhaps we could fly in with a helicopter for just a short time and take a quick peek!

WHAT MIGHT YOU SEE?
The park has a variety of landscapes from rivers, lakes, and forest trails and from these different areas it is possible to spot a number of different animals from waterfowl, bald eagles, osprey, beaver, loons, deer, coyotes, and many others.

THE VISITOR CENTRE
Within this centre you can learn about the area and the people who have lived around Mille Lacs over the centuries. Originally the Dakota lived in the area but by the 18th century they were moving out and the Ojibwe moving in.

The Ojibwe settled and enjoyed the wild rice, fish and water fowl in the area and indeed they must have enjoyed the area as their people still inhabit Mille Lacs today.

In the 1850s more changes took place as loggers came to the area and sadly with their activity within 50 years, the vast forest of white and red pine had been cut and floated out on the lakes and rivers.

Fortunately there still are large areas of forest mainly secondary forest of aspen, birch, maple, oak, and other northern hardwoods. These forests are now managed and protected so that future generations can enjoy the benefits of the landscape, trees and wildlife.

IN SHORT
The park covers a huge 11,621 acres and each year there are 129,163 visits
and of those 20,909 stayed overnight.

The park offers a variety of landscape and according to the visitor centre "It's 9,000 years of human history and archaeological significance has made it a National Historic Landmark."

WORTH A VISIT

We spent a morning in the park walked along one trail, climbed the tower and visited the Visitor centre. Unless you are really into walking or wanted to camp then a morning or afternoon is really enough to get a look at what the park offers.

We enjoyed our walk and the climb up the tower but the insects were beginning to bug us as we were walking hence only going for a short hike. The trails were well signed and paths easy to follow but we saw no wildlife, plenty of flora but no fauna.

Mille Lacs Kathio State Park
15066 Kathio Park Rd
Onamia, 56359

Great breakfast and visit Jimmy's too

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by catsholiday on June 3, 2012

Holiday inn Express & Suites
1100 East County Rd E
Vadnais heights,
MN55110
Once we had left the Great River road and made our way across the Mississippi into Minnesota we headed up through Minneapolis St Paul and towards Onamia where we were going to be based for a week.

Having spent the day exploring little towns and spots of interest on the road we were beginning to flag a little so looked for somewhere to stop for the night. In the USA it is so easy to find a place to stay as they are signed off the Interstate Highways. We opted for this Holiday Inn express as I have a loyalty card for this chain and you can usually rely on getting a decent quality room.

The other requirement was that there had to be a bar and restaurant within walking distance as we didn’t want to have to get into the car again to find something to eat. In the USA you can always call out for a take away but we always like to go out to eat as then the room doesn’t smell of food and also it makes it a bit more interesting and sometimes we meet people to chat to as well.

I ran in to ask if they had a room for one night and I was offered the choice of one king or two queen beds. The price was $139 plus taxes which I think came to about $150 in total which included breakfast. The receptionist was very helpful and friendly and checking in took less than five minutes. As part of the check in I was asked to throw two dice and if I had thrown certain numbers I would have won a prize such as a meal at the restaurant next door. Sadly I failed and got try again next time you stay!

The lobby was large and open with the breakfast room to the right as you walked into the hotel.

Out I went to gather our bits and then up in the lift to our room. Everywhere was nicely carpeted with muted colours and the lift was pretty big too so plenty of room for a family with lots of luggage. They did have some of those luggage wheeling trolley things in the lobby but we only had a couple of bags so didn’t need one.

Our room was large with two queen beds. As you entered the bathroom was to the left and outside the bath room was an open wardrobe with hangers, an iron and an ironing board. Further in on the right was a luggage stand then a big unit with flat screen TV, three large drawers and in the cupboard was a fridge and microwave oven. There was nothing in the fridge at all and in fact I had to switch it on.

The beds were nicely made up with white cotton sheets and four pillows on each bed and then an olive green valance and throw at the end to finish it off. In between the two beds was a bedside table in the middle with two lights, an alarm clock and telephone. The beds were so comfortable I could have stayed in all day and night!

In the corner by the window was a desk with telephone and electric points nearby as well as a standard lamp and a mirror behind on the wall. The window had net curtains and blackout curtains in a brownish greenish sort of check which strangely would not actually pull across the window so we were wakened at first light with the sun streaming through the window. The carpet was a dull sort of green with a brown pattern which was quite subtle in a room that large but not one I would choose for my home though.

The air conditioning unit was under the window and was effective but rather loud as it came on in the night. The other strange thing for a fairly modern building was that we could hear the people above us walking across their room and when my husband who is fairly heavy footed walked across our room it did shake the room.

The bathroom was white tiled with a shower bath plastic enclosure and not such a huge bath but it did the job for a nice long soak with my Lush stuff I had brought with me! It had the usual toilet and basin with long shelf surrounding the basin. In the corner was the inevitable coffee maker but no kettle. I really cannot understand how you can make tea in a coffee maker but they provide tea bags! We always bring our own little travel kettle to the USA for this very reason.

We had shampoo, conditioner and two face and body soaps which smelled of honey and were silky soft. There was also the usual little hair dryer on the wall that makes a huge amount of noise and does dry your hair but gets very hot while doing it. The towels were white and soft we had plenty of them.

The hotel had a really nice indoor pool and a small gym. The lobby was large and welcoming and had a few comfortable chairs for seating.The breakfast restaurant was to the right as you came into the hotel.

Breakfast was pretty good with a choice of hot drinks and two fruit juices. The usual instant porridge packs, several cereals in individual bowls with a choice of small milk packs either % or fat free. There were bagels and muffins as well as bread and English muffins to toast. A pancake machine provided those if you fancied them or you could have hot stuff in the form of bacon patties and omelettes as well as a choice of hard boiled eggs cold from the fridge and my favourite yogurts. Fresh fruit in the shape of apples and bananas was also available and my husband was impressed as this was the best breakfast yet on our tour.

The hotel was connected to a restaurant called ‘Jimmy’s’ by a connecting corridor though not in any other way. We had a meal in Jimmy’s that evening and it was packed. Happy Hour meant two for one drinks and so we had two beers and two gin and tonics for $8. We also tasted the local dish of Walleye, a local lake fish of the region which was really tasty and the two meals came to about $30 and we had so much food once again I couldn’t finish mine. My Walleye was coated in a pistachio crust while my husband chose a battered one, he chose fries while I had a baked potato but that stayed wrapped and untouched!

Jimmy’s was packed but the service was friendly and the waitress patient with our questions. We chose this hotel partly because it had a restaurant next to it as we had had enough travelling that day. Jimmy’s didn’t disappoint and was obviously popular with locals too judging by how busy it was on a Thursday night.

I would recommend this hotel but not as a base to explore Minneapolis as it is too far out.
Holiday Inn Express St. Paul/Vadnais Heights
1100 County Road East E
St. Paul, Minnesota, 55110
(651) 484-2400

Stunning location (and accomodation)

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by catsholiday on June 28, 2012

Village at Izatys, Minnesota

Our stay here started with a major error on my part. I thought I had banked our Diamond Resort points last year and I discovered I had not and we had many points that needed to be used in 2011 and no time to use them. The only way we could use them was to do an exchange through Interval International. I phoned and a very helpful young man looked for possible places for us in states that I suggested to him. He came up with this week at Izatys so we booked it. The rest of this trip was built around this week’s stay.

We had not heard of Onamia before but it looked a nice enough resort and we planned on driving the top section of the Great River Road which coincidently Trevor McDonald recently did from New Orleans all the way up to where we are in a three TV programme series just before we came here.

The resort is set on a golf course and beside Mille Lac Lake with a mariner. It is the type of resort where you stay if you are into lake fishing or golf. My husband plays golf but we hadn’t brought his clubs and they don’t have any for rent so he contented himself with watching others lose great numbers of balls into the water hazards just by our accommodation.

We could have taken a boat trip on the lake but they really only did fishing trips and neither of us is into fishing. This lake is world famous for its Walleye and apparently 3 billion spawn here annually. The week end that we arrived there was a huge Walleye contest taking place which was pretty hectic and interesting to observe. The rules are very strict about the size and numbers of ach type of fish caught in the lakes.

When we arrived we went to the Reception building and they checked us in and pointed us in the direction of our accommodation. We had a quick look around the building. There was large room with pool tables and air hockey as well as chairs and sofas. A small side room had a vending machine for snacks, a couple of ‘restrooms’ and a very small gym was about all that was there. Oh yes, there were four shelves of books but when we left ours there we found none that appealed to us to pick up so we just left our four. There was an entertainment or activity calendar but nothing that grabbed or attention at all, no quizzes or local walks around the area.

The Clubhouse was actually the golf club house and here we found a bar and restaurant. Happy Hour offered two for one drinks so $8 gave us four drinks. The food was also pretty good too and we both enjoyed a Wagyu beef burger with chips and salad for about $12 each – it was very good and the beef so tasty and tender. The little shop there sold toothpaste and toiletries and booze but no bread or milk at all so we had to drive about 7 miles to Isle the next day to buy a few basic groceries for the week.

Next to the clubhouse was a very nice swimming pool with plenty of seating but no shade at all. It was pretty busy on the week end but then almost empty during the rest of the week.

Next to the clubhouse was another huge building which we think was a hotel but we didn’t go and look as there was nothing to suggest there was anything there that we could use in the blurb we were given. We understand from reading and listening to a few locals that the resort had been in financial trouble and has recently been bought and reopened. I don’t know who does own it but the trouble with the resort is that despite the fact that the accommodation is amazing there is very little to do on the resort unless you can play golf, enjoy fishing or want to sit around the pool. There is also very little of any great interest in the area unless you are into hiking, camping, fishing, hunting or these sort of sports. It was very relaxing for a few days and the setting was perfect but after a few days we had had enough and were ready to find other things to see and do.

I will describe the accommodation in Part II.



If you are into fishing and want a truly peaceful place to stay in ultimate luxury then this is for you. If you prefer to have more things to see and do then like us it is nice for a few days but after that we were desperate to get on and see and do something.


The Village at Izatys
8478 Par Five Drive
Onamia, Minnesota, 56359
(320) 532-5121

Amazing Accommodation (and Location)

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by catsholiday on June 28, 2012

The resort is set on a golf course and beside Mille Lac Lake with a marina. It is the type of resort where you stay if you are into lake fishing or golf. My husband plays golf but we hadn’t brought his clubs and they don’t have any for rent so he contented himself with watching others lose great numbers of balls into the water hazards just by our accommodation.

The accommodation was absolutely amazing and I don’t use that word lightly nor am I exaggerating. We had a one bedroom apartment on the ground floor. The building had four one bedroom apartments, two down and two above. The upstairs ones had balconies while ours had a patio and lead straight out onto the grass and down to a marshy area and a natural mini lake. It was from this lake that a little turtle came up to visit us on our patio area. Beyond this we had a view of the golf course hole 18, the mariner and the club house and we could just see Mille Lac too. As I said the setting was pretty near perfect and very relaxing.

As you came into the apartment you entered the main living/dining room which was pretty large and carpeted in lush thick dark green carpet. The dining table had eight chairs around it and was huge. The sitting room had a three seater sofa/bed and a chair with ottoman. A huge fireplace with glass fronted electric ‘log’ fire place and the chimney was constructed with large cobbled stones. A shelf high on the chimney had two wooden water birds and a small tree as decoration. In the corner was a huge flatscreen TV and in the cupboard under that was a dvd player and stereo unit as well as the internet modem for the free wifi.

To the left of this room and sort of open area but divided by a breakfast bar was the fully equipped kitchen . On the living room side of the breakfast bar were four high chairs. In the kitchen itself we had a huge American style fridge, a huge America washing machine and a dryer both hidden behind a large cupboard door. We also had a dishwasher, again huge and a coffee maker, toaster, mixer, blender and whopping stove with ceramic hob and an over big enough to cook me in! Above the stove was a microwave also big enough to fit a turkey should I have wanted to put one in there.

The crockery and cutlery was all quality stuff and eight of everything, saucepans and frying pans as well as pyrex dishes, salad bowls, wine glasses and two other sorts of glasses. Everything you could possible need for self catering for a family and this was a one bedroom unit. It could have slept four using the sofa bed so there was plenty of kitchen equipment for four. They also left us two small packets of washing powder and 12 packs of dishwashing powder, washing up liquid and a washing up brush, tea towels, oven mitts and cloths. A welcome pack of coffee sugar and coffee creamer was also left for our use.

Now remember I said this was a one bedroom apartment well we had two bathrooms. One had a shower basin and toilet in it and could be accessed from the living room or from the corridor along our room next to the big bubbling bath tub. The second bathroom was obviously the one for the main bedroom and that was at the end of the corridor and had a huge shower with a big top nozzle and then two coming out from the wall to squirt at your neck and back. The toilet was in that room but the basin was outside at the end of that same corridor and this had a hair dryer and many drawers and a cupboard as well as a shaving mirror and other mirror to one side. As well as the two bathrooms we also had in this wide corridor off our room a huge Jacuzzi bath tub with mock pillars on one side. I am not exaggerating two people easily fitted in.


One night I put about a third of a Lush bubble bar in this and I had bubbles coming over the top that were thick and creamy. It was the height of luxury and I only wish I had had the foresight to buy some champagne to enjoy in there while being smothered in bubbles.

Our room was massive with a king sized bed, two bedside tables both with reading lights that had different settings and my side had a clock radio/alarm too. The patio doors looked out over the gold course so that in the morning I opened the curtains and as there was never anyone out there on the golf course we could sit in bed, enjoy a cup of tea and look out at the lovely view. The room was lovely and light with large yellow and cream striped wall paper, a mirror on the wall in front of the bed and above a set of pine drawers.

Down the sort of wide corridor with the Jacuzzi bath there was also a huge wardrobe but only six hangers, the sort that can only be used in that wardrobe so a big space with little hanging possibility. On the shelf above in the wardrobe we found the pillows and other bedding for the sofa bed but they stayed there while we were in occupation of the unit.

Our bed was very comfortable but I found the extra long pillows a bit hard, my husband who prefers more solid pillows loved it. I found my neck ached in the morning and preferred those pillows we had in the Marriott on our first night of this holiday.

Each room was decorated with care. The main living room had cream walls with paintings of boats in blues, the kitchen had a tartan sort of checked wallpaper and pictures od people on deck cairs. The main bedroom was wallpapered in wide yellow and cream wallpaper with a very tasteful painting of a lake shore above the bed. In the Jacuzzi area two shell paintings were in nice frames on one side. The first ensuite bathroom had wall paper that was ships flags and the picture to one side of the basin was a large knot from a yacht. In the last bathroom the wallpaper was olde world maps of the world and the pictures outside by the basin matched those by the jacuzzi and were different shells but inside the shower room the picture was of an old yacht.

We were provided with cream coloured towels and bath mats and in the cupboard above the toilet in the first shower room were more towels and again under the basin in the corridor I found yet more towels so we had plenty for a family of four for a week. There was no housekeeping at all while we were in the unit and if we had wanted we could have washed the towels and sheets ourselves. We had plenty of extra toilet rolls and boxes of tissues left as well as soap but no other toiletries.

Finally in a cupboard in the main living room beside the bathroom was a vacuum cleaner, an ironing board and iron and five more hangers presumably for those sleeping in the living room to use. If we had had others in the living room they would have had to use the cupboards in the bathroom and the drawers in the coffee table and under the TV for their clothes as well as this little hanging cupboard or they could have shared ours depending on how close you wanted to be.

All in all it was a pretty near perfect spot to stay and you couldn’t fault the unit or the setting. It is just a shame that for us there was not more to see and do in the area around the resort We actually left a day early as there were places we wanted to see on our way back to Chicago and we set off up northwards to Duluth and then down to Chicago for a week with my son and his girlfriend.
The Village at Izatys
8478 Par Five Drive
Onamia, Minnesota, 56359
(320) 532-5121

It lived up to it 'Comfort' name

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by catsholiday on July 8, 2012

We booked this on line the night before we left our resort at Izatys as we had exhausted all there was to do around Mille Lacs and thought we would explore a bit further afield. Duluth is right on Lake Superior and it is where Bob Dylan was born. There is a very nice drive along the lake shore and we thought we would drive along Bob Dylan Way and go and see his childhood home.

The Comfort inn is on the east side of Duluth just off the highway but there is not a lot else around the hotel. A petrol station and a bank was nearby but we didn’t notice much else and certainly not anywhere to get something to eat.

Checking in was very painless and the lady explained that wifi was free and gave me the password, she also gave me a voucher for a buy on get one free drink at the bar as well as tickets for the complementary guest food between 5pm and 7 pm in the lobby restaurant.

The lobby was large and open and very light with a gig breakfast area towards the back. The bar was just a tiny little stall over in the right hand corner. Near the front there were several sofas and nice seatng places where we sat and enjoyed our drinks later in the evening. Just near there was a computer for guest use and there was also a printer. The hotel was two stories but this part was only single story so it had a really high wooden beamed ceiling, a bit like a large log cabin.

At the back of the lobby beyond the breakfast restaurant was the pool and spa pool which once again looked very pleasant but we didn’t make use of at all.

Our room had a king sized bed in it and it was huge, I had to wave to my husband on the other side! The sheets were cotton and white and the pillows lovely and soft which I appreciated after a week of hard ones at Izatys where we had stayed for a week just prior to this.

The room was large and nice and light with a temperature controlled air conditioner set at 70 degrees. I liked the fact that the walls were cream and the pictures on the wall were of the Lighthouse down the road in fine weather and during a storm. I do like it when the hotels have local decor or pictures as I feel it makes it a bit more like it is part of the place where it is.

This room not only had hanging space with an iron and board but it had a good sized flat screen TV, a fridge, a microwave and even a safe. This was the first hotel we had this holiday with a safe so it was very exciting even though we didn’t use it as we didn’t leave the hotel once checked in before we checked out.

There were rooms without fridge and microwave but I paid about $5 extra for one with fridge so that we could keep our food cold along the way. We had some butter, milk and cheese as well as water for our journey that we have bought and wanted to take to Chicago as we thought we were self catering there as well.

The bathroom was large with a bath and shower over it in an all in one unit, a toilet and a basin with hair dryer and coffee maker in the bathroom. The toiletries were shampoo and soap only. The wall paper was nice in a sort of mock wood check finish in a muted colour.

The complementary guest session offered guests pulled chicken sandwiches which were basically shredded hot chicken meat, rolls and corn chips. You could have as many as you wanted and put as much meat in as you liked. There was also fresh lemonade and cookies. We were very impressed with this as we decided that would do for an evening meal so it saved us money and saved us getting in the car again and driving to find a meal. People were very polite and only took sensible portions that we saw despite the fact that there some very large people around. There was also a huge school party staying but all we saw of them were the two school buses parked outside and the cases all lined up just by Reception.

The two for one drinks made our evening a very cheap one as I had on drink and my husband had a couple of local beers. The total was around $8 or $9 which was a little more than the Happy Hours we had been enjoying but still very good value.

We returned to our room and I made good use of the free internet and we enjoyed reading our books after a long day on the road.

The next day we had a long drive so we got up at 6am and beat the school party to breakfast. This breakfast was as we found in most hotels two choices of fruit juice, coffee or tea, bananas and oranges. There was cereal and a choice of several types of instant porridge oats but sadly for me no yoghurt. We also found the usual bagels, muffins and toast as well as some other cake looking things. My husband found some bacon and I believe there were scrambled eggs too but as I don’t eat them I cannot always remember.

All in all we were pretty impressed with this hotel. The staff were all really friendly and helpful. They all looked for quarters with the different states on as my husband collects them and is only missing about six now. They were efficient and told us all that the hotel offered. Check in was quick and the check out equally so. The room was comfortable and very roomy as was the bed with soft white cotton sheets and soft pillows. I would certainly recommend this as a place to stay to explore the area around Duluth. As in all the hotels parking was free as was the internet. This hotel offered a free newspaper, free access to a local gym, guest laundry services within the hotel and some rooms had Jacuzzis but you did pay extra.

The hotel has won a Platinum Award in 2011 from choice Hotels and a Gold Award in 200 so it was a pretty good choice that we were happy with.
Comfort Inn West
3900 West Superior Street
Duluth, Minnesota, 55807
(218) 628-1464

One of a kind

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by catsholiday on September 28, 2012

Cloquet, Minnesota: Frank Lloyd Wright Gas Station or the Lindholm Oil Company Service Station

This was another interesting find we discovered on our road trip through Minnesota. It is one of the sights known as roadside attractions of which there are many in the USA.

WHERE IS THIS?
202 Cloquet Ave, Cloquet, Minnesota

In order to get here you need to take I -35 exit 237 then go north on Highway 33 for about two miles. The garage is found on the corner of Hwy 33 and Cloquet Avenue.

CLAIM TO FAME
This is the world's only gas station ever built by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. It was built in 1958 by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright who lived from 1867 to 1959. The garage was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.

The small town of Cloquet has a population of around 11,000 and this gas station is its greatest claim to fame. There is not a lot else in the town that attracted us anyway and we took a detour of the Interstate to see it specially.

THE GARAGE HISTORY


Frank Lloyd Wright foresaw that there would be a need for gas stations with the rise of the popularity of the car in modern society. He designed a gas station as part of his town plan known as ‘Broadacre City’. The town never became a reality and it wasn’t until FLW was 90 years old that he finally got a chance to build his station after a 25 year wait.
In 1952, Ray W. Lindholm asked FLW to design and build him a private house because his daughter suggested FLW having studied architecture and learned about FLW. After designing and building the home FLW suggested that his client use a FLW design for a gas station for Lindholm's Phillips 66 distributorship in Cloquet, Minnesota. The suggestion was accepted and work began on the station in 1956 and finally enjoyed its grand opening two years later, in 1958.

In 1958,this gas station cost $20,000 to build which was over four times the national average cost. Fortunately the owner was happy with his gas station and is quoted as saying "A customer can stop almost anywhere and get good gasoline, but a beautiful observation lounge like this one is most unusual and will bring the customer back."
During the first three days of opening the station set a five state record, with 22,000 gallons of gas pumped from their new pumps

THE FLW DESIGN FEATURES
The station was designed with its observation deck or upper waiting area being one of the center points. The garage bays have skylights that were designed to let natural light into the work area which is an eminently sensible idea and saves on electricity too. There are four service bays in the service area and very unique is the fact that there is radiant underground heating to melt ice off customer's cars.
Rather beautiful Cyprus wood was used for shelving in the garage, office and on decorative wood cuts in the restrooms.
Possibly the feature you see first when visiting the gas station and something that remains unchanged is the canopy which sticks out 35 feet from the main building, with no supporting columns to hold it up. FLW felt columns would spoil the beauty of his design.
In FLW’s design originally gas was to be pumped from retractable hoses coming down from overhead fuel tanks in the unique cantilevered canopy. The idea was to be that no ugly pumps would spoil its sleek looks but fire regukations prevented this as all fuel must legally be stored underground. Today the traditional original pumps are still installed under the copper-covered overhanging roof.



TODAY
The garage has been restored as it was rather run down apparently. It looks like a gas station pretty much like most others although a bit dated. It does however have a few distinctive design features which makes it stand apart and is obviously a Frank Lloyd Wright design. It celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2008 which is probably when it got its make over and clean up.

You can still buy gas (petrol) from here and it is still pumped through the old style pumps but we had a pretty full tank so were not able to use these facility. I am not sure whether they still do car services there as again, luckily we didn’t need that sort of attention. The gas station is now a ‘Spur’ owned station and certainly the service areas has equipment in them but no one was working on any cars in there while we were there. The lighted "Spur" sign also has a picture of FLW along with the text "Frank Lloyd Wright" which is on the tower or pylon on the roof.


On the roof we couldn’t help but notice the original 60-foot illuminated rooftop spire or pylon with "FLWright" in a futuristic font. We parked our car beside another FLW decorative wall with his name on a sign and an art deco light.
.
We were impressed with the bronze plaque on the side of the building which designates the Lindholm Service Station as being on the National Register of Historic Places.

This was obviously a gas or petrol station but it was also obviously a FLW design. It had the art deco look and I am really pleased that the USA are making an effort to protect these interesting and rather quirky historical places.

This is not worth a special journey to visit unless you are a big fan of FLW, however if, like us, it would only mean a slight detour then I would say yes, do take that detour and spend a few minutes looking around this unique historical building. This is as I have said the only FLW designed gas station in the world.
Lindholm Service Station/Frank Lloyd Wright Gas Station
202 Cloquet Avenue
Cloquet, Minnesota

http://www.igougo.com/journal-j77751-Minnesota-Exploring_Minnesota.html

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