Although we spent 3 long years putting our blood, sweat and tears into the van build, we actually only took MichelVangelo on two weekend camping trips (each about an hour away). A few 2 hour round trips should suffice for year-long 20,000 mile drive around the U.S. right? We had hoped to get a few more camping shakedowns under our belts but, MichelVangelo required some time in the auto shop instead (all is well, just many minor add-ons/ repairs). On June 30th, MichelVangelo took his maiden voyage, heading straight north for Manitowish Waters, WI. This little slice of heaven has been apart of Jason’s family since 1968 when Jason’s grandpa built a modest lake cabin for family and friends to enjoy all the northwoods has to offer .
Due to our slight oversight when we bought MichelVangelo, (he was not built with air conditioning… it is a 1990 Ford I mean, come on, how does it NOT have A/C?) we left at 4 a.m. to avoid some of the Iowa heat. We were both anxious to see how MichelVangelo would handle the heat, miles, and hours on the road. He drove like a dream! That is, if your dream is to go no faster than 60 mph, windows down, sweat dripping down your back, all while singing along to the same 15 songs chosen by Katie. Sounds pretty close to perfect to me.
We decided to avoid all major interstates, opting for two lane highways, the occasional gravel road and all the small town vibes we could find. What would usually take us 7.5 hours (via interstate) took us about 9 hours (not too shabby). Watching the beautiful sunrise as we were driving away from our hometown was bittersweet. Knowing this would be the last time we would be in Iowa until possibly December was a tough pill to swallow but we were excited to begin our trip.
Manitowish Waters is the quintessential place for a family vacation. It is a small lake town with everything you need and then some. The bike trail system up here is very impressive, with beautiful paved trails taking you all over Manitowish Waters and surrounding towns. Greers Pier is a great place to rent pontoon boats, and you might as well stop at their patio bar and order a “Channel Runner,” you won’t be disappointed. Taking an afternoon to kayak, canoe, or float down Manitowish River is a fun way to see the views too. We have rented from Hawk’s Nest Canoe Outfitters many times. They get you started in the river behind their property and pick you up at the end of the float to take you back to their building, making things very easy. There are many other things to see and experience, I would suggest exploring Northerly Collective’s Adventure Guide.
Katie has two food requirements every time she visits:
- Friday Fish Fry at Little Bohemia Lodge. Taxidermy galore, perfect views of Little Star Lake, and the site of a shootout between John Dillinger and the FBI, the basis of the movie Public Enemies starring Johnny Depp (you can see bullet holes in the walls). If that isn’t enough to interest you, this is also the place where we had our wedding reception, almost six years ago (no epic gun battles ensued).
- A bike ride to The Pea Patch Motel & Saloon for a delicious basket of fried cheese curds. A pint of Spotted Cow washes them down perfectly. Since you’re at the bar, might as well try your hand at the Shake of the Day!
The past two weeks spent at the cabin for the 4th have been nothing short of perfect. Lots of time with Jason’s family, our lake family (neighbors) and a few friends were also able to join after the 4th to see us off. From the Annual 4th of July Beer Pong Tourney (which we won), family dinners with all their wonderful chaos, relaxing cocktail cruises, fairy garden building with nephews, watching every single World Cup match, and late night fireside chats under a blanket of stars, we feel rejuvenated and ready to travel further north.
Our first stop will be The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore near Bayfield, WI then onto Duluth, MN. We welcome any recommendations you have for the Northern Wisconsin/Minnesota area.