We have been fortunate to spend the previous week in Minnesota – both at in Fergus Falls, and camping in Eagan. We enjoyed spending time with family, walking Sparky in a nice residential area, getting some extra sleep in a real bed, and finally camping with cousins. It was both Noah’s and Howie’s first time camping, and we feel honored to be a part of it.
Where We Stayed
At Fergus Falls, we stayed at Steve’s Grandma’s house. For those who do not know, Steve’s Grandmother, Delores, no longer lives in her house in Fergus Falls, instead, she resides in a memory care facility in Morris, Minnesota – about an hour’s drive. Sparky enjoyed having access to a couch as well as plenty of windows to sunbathe in front of. Steve and I enjoyed having some space, regular sized showers, and a comfortable bed we don’t have to crawl over each other to access.
We also camped at a Dakota County Regional park, Lebanon Hills. We had two campsites between the three families, which was perfect space for all of us. The campsites were very spacious and private. It also had fantastic bathrooms, showers and playground areas. We had electricity at our site, which was a huge bonus for a “tent” site. For a county park, Steve and I were very impressed.
What We Did
We had several reasons to travel to Fergus Falls. We enjoy spending time with Steve’s Aunt Lyn, Uncle Bryan, and his cousins. Every time we get together, great times are had by all. We also wanted to spend time with Steve’s Grandmother, Delores. Lastly, we also wanted an opportunity to take a break from our current lifestyle. We wanted to catch up on housekeeping, clean Sparky’s beds, and plan the rest of our driving legs till we get to Washington DC.
We arrived late Saturday night of Labor Day weekend, after midnight, and were surprised & delighted to be greeted by both Lyn & Brian. Sunday morning we slept in for as late as Sparky would allow us to, about 8:00AM. At this point my normal fall allergies, which usually show up in late September, had arrived early. I was struggling to function normally. My typical “hay fever” involves sore throats, congestion, itchy & red eyes, and overall just feeling crappy. We decided not to partake in the activities for the day with Lyn, Brian, Leah & Noah, and instead focused on getting me some allergy medicines, doing laundry, and relaxing a bit. I ended up taking the medicine and going back to nap most of the day, while Steve enjoyed catching up with his family. Once I was awake and semi-functional we enjoyed a delicious dinner at a local favorite, Mabel Murphy’s. Steve was excited to eat a big chunk of beef, since he doesn’t get to eat it with me and the last time he had any was weeks ago in Seattle. I felt so icky; that I knew only their famous Beer Cheese Soup would make me feel better.
Monday we were excited to see Nick, Hannah and Howie for a few hours. We all enjoyed lunch at the Pizza Ranch before Leah and Noah, and Nick, Hannah and Howie had to drive home. For those who have never experienced the Pizza Ranch – it has a lunchtime all you can eat pizza buffet, that also serves fried chicken, salad, and dessert pizza. One of my personal favorites is the Mac & Cheese Pizza.
Throughout our week at Fergus Falls, we got to visit Grandma twice at West Wind Village in Morris. When we saw her Wednesday, she was in a fantastic mood. We saw many smiles, heard her laugh, and took her walking all over the inside & outside of the facility. Over the two days, Delores chatted about nonsense, sometimes even making her own words up. It didn’t make sense. Alzheimer’s is a nasty and horrible disease. I have to give credit to the employees of West Wind Village and similar facilities around the world – they are often repeating themselves, breaking up bickering fights, and soothing the patients to sleep. One of the nurses got on the piano and sang with a resident. They go above and beyond to make the patients feel comfortable – a daunting and impossible task.
Steve and I also used a self-service truck wash in Fergus Falls. This was our first time using it on the trailer. We were happy to be rid of the graveyard of bugs. We also took time to visit a waterfowl conservation area, paid for by a generous donation from Steve’s Uncle, Tom (lives in Chicago suburb) via Ducks Unlimited. It was beautiful.
We left Friday morning, after a fantastic breakfast with Aunt Lyn at the famous Viking Cafe, and made our way to the Twin Cities to Lebanon Hills Regional Park for a “Cousins Camping” trip. This was the first time the Struss family camped together, and baby Howie’s first camping trip as well. Steve’s cousins, Hannah, Nick, Howie & Mozart, arrived first after work. We were pleasantly surprised to find out that they added a new additional to their family – Zoie!!!(a 4 month old golden doodle) I was in love instantly. Leah, Bryan & Noah were shortly behind them. We enjoyed a delicious dinner and a dessert of Smores. Noah enjoyed his first Smore!
Saturday, we woke up and felt ready to get our bodies moving. After breakfast we embarked on a morning hike. The trail started nearby our campsites, and led you to the East Park, where you can take several trails around several lakes. We took the trail about 1.5 miles to East Park. We enjoyed the playground, walked around a different lake and headed back. It was disappointing we didn’t see much wildlife. We saw some frogs, lizards, turtles, grasshoppers and even a crane. The dogs relished some time in the sun, and in the lake. We ended our 3.5-mile hike back at camp, had some lunch, and put the kids (and some adults) down for naps & quiet time. Steve and I took the two young pups, Sparky & Zoie, down another trail with the goal of getting them tired – it worked! On this hike we saw hoppy jackrabbits – which Sparky gave a good effort to chase. We gobbled up a delicious shrimp boil dinner (Hannah & Nick showing everyone up), brownies in an iron cast pan, apple pies and more smores!
It was hard to say goodbye to everyone in the morning! We love our cousins, especially the little ones and furry ones. We hope to see them again real soon!
What Would We Do Next Time
We loved our time with the Johnson crew. There is never enough time to spend with loved ones, so of course we could’ve spent weeks there and not got our fill of family time. We are happy we stopped at Fergus and spent time to unwind as well. We have been so busy and on the go; it is nice to be reminded of how much our bodies craved rest and relaxation.
The camping trip also gave us a reminder to how much we love camping. We have been staying at KOAs, which is not camping. We have determined while RV’ing and camping are similar, its like comparing apples & oranges.
We arrived at the Jeuck Family cabin near Florence, Wisconsin. We will be here for 6 days and look forward to fishing, and fun with family. Steve’s sister, Melissa, is here with her husband, Hady, and kids – Zain, Jenna & Nour. Steve’s Aunt Sue & Uncle Tom are also here having fun! Stay posted!
For more information about Alzheimer’s disease, learn the symptoms, and what you can do to help – please visit the Alzheimer’s Association Website.