Sunday, June 30, 2013

Letters to Tory: 22 Months

Hey Tory Girl,

You're 22 months old now!

And, yes, you are our little monkey. This is a picture of you after you climbed on top of the patio table and happily proclaimed "oo oo oo" like your favorite animal friend. In the mornings, you run out into the kitchen for breakfast and scramble as fast as your can into your high chair. I'm still not sure how you scale the side of it so quickly. Breakfast is your favorite meal, so perhaps that's some of your motivation? I made some trail mix last week with M&Ms and one afternoon I turned my head for a second while you climbed up the counter and helped yourself to a snack. I wish I could say I'm concerned but by now, it's no shock to see you standing on the toilet next to me as I brush my teeth in the mornings.

Watering Mommy's flowers, one of your favorite pastimes.

You've had a huge burst in language development this month and try to repeat almost everything we say. Of course you were bound to start talking someday, but I'm still absolutely amazed at every word that streams out of your mouth. My baby is talking! Some of your newest words this month are knee, down, toes, nose, green, hat, orange, more, ear, towel, horse, help, bag and counting 1-2-3. There's a slew of other words you're attempting to say (like "ink" for drink and "butt" for button) but I won't count those until they're a little more spot on. I keep a running tab of your words and it's becoming harder by the day to document all the new things you say. This weekend, you started calling me "mommy" instead of "ma" or "mom" and I'm not sure I was quite ready for it! Mommy sounds so grown up and I'm stuck in this place where I want you to both learn and grow, yet stay my baby forever. By far, your favorite word lately is owie (or "owbie" as you say). Everything is "owbie," even scratches on your leg that are far from new.

Stopping on the street to smell the flowers.

You are such a GIRL, Tory, and your flare for drama is really starting to show. Last week you were playing with a stick in the backyard. I watched you toss the stick on the ground in front of you, then throw your hand up to your forehead like a Southern Belle and say "Oh! Oh! Waaaaa! [cue fake crying]." (Daddy says he knows just where you get this trait. I have no idea what he's talking about.) You've also been known to lay down on the floor and fake cry like you just fell down and hurt yourself. Except, I watched your whole performance and all I can do is shake my head and laugh. Oh Tory, we are in for a ride with you!

At the lift bridge in Duluth, Minnesota

I'll put on my proud mama hat and note how much I admire your loving personality. You're very good at sharing your toys with others and love to give out hugs and kisses. The other day, you were playing with a ball another little boy wanted at the library's Baby Storytime. I suggested you sit down and roll the ball to the little boy, thinking he'd in turn roll it back to you and you'd share the toy together. You sat down and rolled the ball to him and he took the ball and ran away with it. I felt so sorry for you as you stood there in awe by what had just happened. Sharing is part of growing up and it's hard, I know. I'm really pleased to see how well you play with others and I hope this cooperative trend continues, especially when Baby Brother arrives this winter.

Oh, hey! This month you learned you're having a baby brother! We've started talking about him often and you seem to understand the concept. When I ask you where Baby Brother is, you'll point and kiss my belly which absolutely melts my heart. I hope you're still as excited about him after he comes home from the hospital! You sure love babies and you love to help, so I think you'll adjust just fine.

Hiking at Big Bay State Park in Madeline Island, WI

You're holding steady in a great sleeping pattern this month. Lately, you've been waking up around 7:00am and going to be sleep around 7:30pm, with a two hour nap in the afternoon. This schedule really seems to fit you well. You're happy when you wake up from sleeping and you're tired and ready to sleep at bedtime. In the last two weeks, you've begun bringing stuffed animals and baby dolls to bed with you. It's almost laughable the amount of "friends" that are in your crib at bedtime. There's Dog and Monkey, at least two or three babies, your Sleep Sheep, a pillow and a blanket. In the last two weeks, you've requested to sleep without your Sleep Sack which makes me a little nervous for a few reasons. First, I worry you'll be cold in the night because you never stay covered up and secondly, you're quite the little climber (see above) so I worry you'll figure out how to monkey right out of your crib. This past weekend at the cabin, you actually did climb out of your pack-n-play both nights and came screaming into our bedroom in the middle of the night. I have no idea how you scaled the side of the playpen, but in any case Daddy and I are scrambling to find you new sleeping arrangements there. You're almost two years old and Baby Brother is coming so moving to a big girl bed is inevitable, but I definitely wasn't ready for it to be so soon. In the meantime, the Sleep Sack is back and your sticky toes shall remain contained.

Playing in the lake

We took a family RV trip around Minnesota and Wisconsin this month, and you and I flew back to Nebraska to visit family in June as well. So far, you've traveled to nine states and have been on countless plane rides in your 22 months of life. You continue to be a really good traveler and are nothing if not a thrill seeker. One of your very favorite things to do is go for Ranger ATV rides at the cabin with Daddy. You shout "go!" and he drives faster, as you hoot and giggle the entire way. You really are so much fun to be around. My cheeks just ache at the end of the day thanks to all the smiling we do together. Thank you for being you, my favorite girl.


Friday, June 28, 2013

#RVthereyet Adventure: Days 3 & 4

Day 3 of our RV weekend adventure was a lot of fun. We woke up at Lake Chippewa campground, just outside of Hayward, Wisconsin and decided to spend the day exploring what this cute little town had to offer.

Tory woke up early around 5:30am and in such close quarters, there really wasn't much room to let her fuss and/or jump on the toddler grenade while the other parent slept. I got up with Tory and brought her back to bed with Andi and I. Surprisingly, she did fall back asleep for about 20 minutes or so as we laid there together. This mama, however, never did not. A very early morning wake-up and no coffee on hand = a rough start to the morning. Oy.

I finally summoned Andi out of bed around 6:15am. Together, we took down the pack-n-play and replaced the small space with our RV's kitchen table so we could eat breakfast. Our morning feast consisted of cinnamon donut holes, yogurt and bagels. Typical roughing it, camping-type food. It was really convenient having a small refrigerator in the RV to keep dairy products, snacks and beverages during our trip. Definitely key when traveling on the road with a toddler.

After breakfast, we took Tory and Chloe for a walk around the campground. It was quiet and peaceful with only a few people out walking their dogs and a couple college-aged girls doing the walk of shame back to their camp site. We walked over to the park's playground area and let Tory play for a while. She was happy tossing rock pebbles down the slides for 15 minutes or so while Andi and I talked about anything and everything. I'm in love with the calmness of mornings these days when the air is crisp and the world is quiet. (Definitely turning into an adult over here).

The Chippewa Flowage, near our campground

A bit later, we walked back to our RV spot and packed up the camp site. Our plan for the morning was to visit the Wilderness Walk zoo/nature area in Hayward. We arrived just as they opened so we had most of the park to ourselves. I'm not exactly sure how to describe this place. It was a cross between a zoo, park with hiking trails and a cheesy, touristy-trap old Western town. We saw baby deer, a reindeer, geese, farm animals, a zeedonk (a cross between a zebra and a donkey), peacocks, big tigers and bears and a camel. Tory was in absolute heaven around all the animals, so I guess that's all that matters.

Petting the baby goats

Chasing geese
(by far Tory's very favorite part of the park)

Crazy loud peacocks walking around all over

Stuck in the old-time jail

No caption needed.
(What we won't do for our kids, am I right?)

Toward the end of the Wilderness Walk park, there was a fake town with a cafe and various places for photo ops. Little kids could "pan for gold" in the river and then redeem their gold for a free sucker at the nearby cafe. Tory was a big fan of playing in the water and fortunately we were the only people there so she got to play and splash all she liked.

After the Wilderness Walk, we drove over to downtown Hayward's Musky Festival to grab lunch and watch the Grand Parade. The area was already packed with people waiting for the parade, so we were lucky to snag a table at Angler's Bar and Grill. Typical fried-everything bar food at this place, nothing fancy. Andi had wings, I had chicken strips and Tory dined on mac and cheese bites with a side of cheese curds for the table to share, of course. I felt a bit guilty serving my child an entire meal of fried foods and Ranch dressing, but there was literally nothing else on the menu. The area Shriner's bagpippers stopped to serenade the restaurant patio during our lunch, so that was kind of neat.

The Musky Festival Grand Parade started shortly afterwards. We watched from a nearby curb and made friendly with the locals around us. I'm nothing if not a gigantic fan of parades, so I was pretty much in heaven. You just can't beat a good parade; you can't. The community pride as everyone cheers on the hometown band, local sports teams and businesses. I love it all.

Tory was not a big fan of the firetrucks at the start. Girlfriend is very sensitive to loud noises (she cries when I vacuum!) so I had to cover her ears and constantly reassure her as they blared by us. Then, once she realized parades = treats and someone handed her a popsicle (her very first one ever!), we were back on the fun train. 

Watching the parade in Mommy's sunglasses

Musky Festival royalty
(They looked like mermaids)

The parade lasted for at least 60 minutes. I would definitely come back to Hayward to see it again. The community togetherness and variety of floats and entertainment was top notch as small townie festivals go. 

Then, we said good-bye to Hayward and drove south toward our lake cabin. Andi had a work photo shoot near the cabin this week, so he needed to do some location scouting beforehand. Tory and I planned to hang out at the cabin for the evening while Andi worked and then we'd all stay the night before driving back to the Twin Cities Monday morning. It truly was a difficult decision if we should sleep at the lake cabin Sunday night or spend another night in the RV. Obviously, the comforts of the cabin called our names (hello space to move and our real beds!) but I felt like we were cheating on our RV adventure by crashing there. In the end, we were all so happy to get out of that dang RV that the cabin won us over. I was never so happy to see this sight. One of my favorite places in the world, hands down.

I slept better Sunday night at the cabin than I have in MONTHS. I was so worn out from being "on the road" all weekend and sleeping on a make-shift sofa turned RV bed. I can't remember having one crazy pregnancy dream and that's sayin' something.

Monday morning, Andi woke up early and headed off for more location scouting in the area. Tory and I laid around the cabin and ate breakfast while we waited for him to come back to pick us up. Upon Andi's return, we took the pontoon out for a quick trip around the lake before heading back to the Cities. I did not want to leave in the least bit. The weather was finally warm and there wasn't a sole on the lake but us.

Alas, we had to return the RV to the rental place by 2:00pm, so we had to get going. Ahead of us was a morning of cleaning out the RV and unpacking everything at home. Andi and I were both dreading the tasks. We stopped at a campground about 10 miles from the cabin and paid $5 to dump our RV's sewer tank at their site. This, by far, was the least glamorous part about RVing. Andi gagged as he was hooking up the pipe to drain the system. I laughed, snapped a picture and ran back in the RV. 

Back at home, we spent two hours cleaning the RV inside and out. The rental company required the RV to "be returned in the condition it was provided" which, judging by their tone, meant we had to clean it well or we'd be charged accordingly. I mopped the floor, vacuumed and wiped down the counter tops, cupboards and refrigerator while Andi washed the exterior. After all that, Andi said the rental company tried to charge him a $75 cleaning fee because there were "water spots" on the outside of the RV when he returned it. Pfft. You better believe my husband argued his way out of that one!

Overall, our RV trip was one for the memory books. I loved spending so much quality time with Andi, especially given his busy, away-from-us travel schedule during the months of May and June. Tory was an absolute trooper on the trip and never fussed once. She has a truly adventurous spirit, just like her dad. I loved all the random places we saw during the weekend, trying new restaurants and hootin' it up with the locals at the Musky Festival. I can't say we'll ever rent another RV, however. It was an experience I'm glad we tried and now we know we never have any interest in doing that ever again. The entire experience really made Andi and I appreciate our lake cabin and what a slice of paradise it is in our lives. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

#RVthereyet Adventure: Day 2

Saturday was Day 2 of our RV adventure and it began at Big Bay State Park in Madeline Island, Wisconsin. The weather was so chilly and dreary that the campground was fairly quiet Friday evening. Andi, Tory and I were able to settle in for a decent night's sleep in our RV and thankfully we had a heater. I did not envy people around us sleeping in tents. A few people told us they'd planned this camping trip to Madeline Island all year long, so the weather was especially disappointing for those folks. We were bummed but we'd only decided to drive up here on Friday, so it was less of a downer for us. After looking at the upcoming forecast, Andi and I both knew we wouldn't stick around Bayfield / Madeline Island for long if the weather was going to be so crummy all weekend. We decided to make the best of our short time on the island. After a breakfast of toast and yogurt in the RV (that is, after we took down Tory's pack-n-play so we'd have somewhere to sit), we set out for a hike on one of the nearby park trails. The temperature was a cool 49 degrees outside and the fog was incredibly dense -- almost mystical.

After living in Minnesota for six years now, the vastness of Lake Superior continues to amaze me. Standing on this point during our hike reminded me of being at the ocean. The waves violently slapped against this rocks below and water was the only thing to be seen for miles and miles (well, if we could have seen for miles and miles due to the fog). I bet this view is truly breathtaking in better circumstances. 

What would an adventure be without a few family snapshots? Andi set up his camera gear and we posed for a few photos at the trail entrance. I razzed Andi later for not telling me my coat was tucked up in a weird way, making me look like I had a tire around my waist. Then I realized, oh that's a baby bump there. Guess my pregnant belly is growing bigger than I thought these days. I know Andi just loves me during those self-image conversations.

During our hike, Tory was obsessed with all the nature around her. She's very into picking up leaves and sticks (and banging them against trees saying "hit! hit!" -- not sure where she learned this lovely word) so she did lots of that during our walk. She also loved climbing around on the tree trunks. By this point in the morning, it started to rain but the tree canopy was so dense we weren't really getting wet. Best of all, we were all alone on the trails. The only sounds we heard were the waves beating against the shore and nature all around us. A pretty peaceful way to start our day.

After our hike, we hopped back in the RV and drove around Madeline Island a bit. There wasn't much to see (I think the island is mostly hiking trails and beaches), but we were amazed by all the wildlife in plain site from the road. There were lots of deer crossing the road and they didn't seem a bit skittish when we stopped and snapped a few photos of them eating grass in the pasture. It was seriously some National Geographic-type stuff. Very cool.

Since the weather was icky, we decided to head back to the mainland and drive south toward warmer weather. Some people might have been fine there, but Andi and I both hate cold temperatures and it was silly to be miserable when it was much warmer just a hour or two away. The weekend weather was such a bummer because Madeline Island offered so much potential. We were really looking forward to strawberry picking at a local orchard with Tory (but none of the farms were open for the season yet due to the unseasonably cool spring), hiking various trails and hanging out on the beach. Adding insult to injury, the boat worker said "you didn't stay on the island long!" as we boarded the ferry back to Bayfield. We know. Bummer indeed. Andi and I vowed we'd be back to Madeline Island for a visit again someday.

Many thanks to good ol' WeatherBug, we decided to drive inland where the temperatures looked to be about 30 degrees warmer. From Bayfield we drove to Ashland, Wisconsin for a bite to eat. Neither Andi or I had been to Ashland before, so I consulted the Internet quickly to choose a spot for lunch. I selected Second Street Bistro (which was the #2 ranked restaurant on Andi ordered the Mediterranean appetizer platter to share and a cup of the house soup (some sort of seafood chowder) which he said was very good. I ordered the house entree salad which turned out to be the exact same ingredients as the Mediterranean appetizer platter, minus the hummus. Disappointing to say the least. The restaurant was not kid-friendly in the least bit, but the waiter offered to make us a grilled cheese for Tory. It was basically two pieces of Texas toast with cheese in the middle. Tory didn't seem to care for it. Overall, not my favorite dining stop on the trip which was a let down given the "amazing" online reviews. Poor ordering on my part I guess, but I do think the waiter (who seemed like he might have been the owner) could've have warned me that my meal selection was exactly what we'd just eaten as an appetizer. Anyway, Baby #2 wasn't too satisfied after eating a meal of raw vegetables for lunch so I snacked on some Cheetos and a yogurt later in the RV to hold me over until dinner.

After lunch, Andi and I continued onward to Hayward, Wisconsin. We saw online it was the annual Musky Days Festival in Hayward that weekend, so we decided to check it out. I'm always down for a townie festival! As we drove, Tory fell slept in her car seat. All of our travel time to various cities during this trip seemed to coincide with Tory's nap time, so that worked out particularly well.

As we pulled into Hayward, we could feel the weather shift around us. The sun was shining outside and the RV's temperature gauge said 75 degrees. Perfect! We drove immediately to the town's Main Street and saw rows and rows of sidewalk vendors, live music and fun. We were so excited! After changing into lighter clothes, we hopped out of the RV and strolled the streets of the Musky Festival.

First stop was the face painting booth because, why not? That's what townie festivals are all about, right? Tory got her face painted with a cute little pink and yellow butterfly. She was so patient while the lady with crazy hair (!!) painted her cheek.

We strolled around, browsing the sidewalk vendor booths and enjoyed our afternoon in the sunshine. This place perked our moods right up and both Andi and I had gigantic smiles plastered on our faces. Fun events like this are what summer is all about! There was every single kind of cabin-themed decor for sale here. And, almost every person there was carrying a metal shovel with a design cut into it. This is the only thing I can find online that even compares to it for reference. Except these shovels also had a rain gauge attached to them. Random. Even crazier, the shovels were going for $35 at the vendor's table. $35! Andi and I were in awe. Something like that would easily fetched double that amount at an art fair in the Twin Cities. My business-minded husband was quickly doing the math to see how much profit the owner was making from these rain gauge / shovel / lawn decor thingies.

After a while, we let Tory roam the barricaded sidewalks and streets alongside us. She does the cutest thing lately and stops at every potted container of flowers to smell them. To see the world through the eyes of a toddler. Wow. I just love it.

We stopped for ice cream at West's Ice Cream shop. We split a bowl of Mini Donut ice cream and sat on a nearby bench to take in all the action. Someone came by and gave Tory a yellow balloon. You'd have thought she just won the lottery. Tory squealed with excitement as her balloon bounced along side her all afternoon.

We strolled around the festival a bit more. There were actually quite a few people there, although this photo doesn't really look like it. Tory loved the live music playing on stage. She danced and bobbed around for quite a while with her yellow balloon in hand. By accident, Andi also captured Baby #2 in this photo (hello baby bump!) which is also why I find this photo so hilarious. See, I am growing bigger!

A few hours later, we decided to go to our camp site for the night and get settled in. Andi reserved a spot at the Lake Chippewa campground, situated on the Chippewa Flowage. The campground was about 10 minutes outside of Hayward and in a beautifully secluded area. We found our spot, hooked up to power and water and set up the grill for dinner. We decided to take a walk around the campground to check out our surroundings. Tory was obsessed with holding Chloe's leash, which proved to be a bit stressful for mama, as we dodged traffic on the road. There weren't many scenic trails at Lake Chippewa like there were at Big Bay State Park on Madeline Island. Most of the campers were nestled right next to one another with little green space between them. Lake Chippewa did have a playground for kids, as well as a water balloon launcher and arcade. For bigger kids, this place would be pretty fun.

Overall, our Lake Chippewa camp site was not my favorite and I think I even quoted one of Tory's Backyardigans episodes to Andi (of which we listened to many, many times during our weekend trip) that camping "is not the life for me." (Backyardigans reference: "a life without socks ... is not the life for me." Very poetic, Backyardigans). It's strange because I really used to enjoy camping and I even went camping for my bachelorette party not too many years ago. Hard to believe that now. I think the big difference this time was camping with a toddler was not particularly enjoyable. And Tory was really good the entire trip! I spent the entire evening on Saturday chasing Tory around and keeping two eyes on her at every single moment. There were wires and electrical boxes in the vicinity, our camp fire, the nearby road which had decent traffic from cars and golf carts, other people's campsites with their pets, the picnic table which was too big for Tory to reach in a sitting position and the RV, of course. Add in keeping a third eye (which I don't have) on Chloe the Dog as she tried to chase after every chipmunk and dog around us ... and it was just too much. Not very relaxing.

Don't I look like I'm enjoying myself here?

Plus, our campsite set-up was kind of ghetto. We were only going to be there for a night and we had the RV to sleep in, so we didn't put much effort into setting up baller digs for our entertainment purposes. All of our camping chairs were at the cabin, so we used the provided picnic table to eat and sit. About seven seconds after I snapped this photo of Tory, she fell between the picnic table and bench and scraped up her back. Oy.

Our camp site was pretty bare-bones compared to the people next to us who strung up Christmas lights and brought a portable refrigerator and coffee maker. Or this person, who actually decorated their motor home with lawn ornaments. For serious? Wow.

Andi grilled us steak, asparagus and portobello mushrooms for dinner while I made Tory mac and cheese from the RV microwave. At least I didn't have to clean up her giant mess after dinner! By this point, I was basically over our camping adventure for the evening. Andi and I decided to relax in the RV and read our books after we set up Tory's pack-n-play sleeping arrangements. Thankfully, Tory slept really well every night in the RV. Only once did she pop up and say "hi!" to Andi as he sneaked past her sleeping quarters. Another early night to bed for us. For anyone who knows Andi and I, this isn't too far of a stretch from our regular at-home life, so no hard feelings on our part. Two very good things about the RV on this evening -- we had A/C to combat the humid temps outside and with the windows closed, we couldn't hear any of our camping neighbors next to us.

Day 2's RV adventure was in the books with a total distance traveled of 328 miles. I'm so thankful we decided to cut our time in Bayfield short and head toward warmer weather. It definitely made our daytime experiences much more enjoyable. Plus, we really had a blast at the Musky Festival in Hayward.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

#RVthereyet Adventure: Day 1

(Don't you just love my IG hashtag for the weekend? Stay-at-home-mom life hasn't turned my marketing brain into mush quite yet.)

So, Andi and I rented a RV and took a whirlwind trip this past weekend. We've both learned one thing from this adventure: we don't love RVing. Good to know! That said, we did have a really fun weekend together as our little family of three. Those fun times just so happen to take place during the sightseeing portion of our trip and less during the actual living in a RV thing.

Our RV adventure really began Thursday evening. We were pre-scheduled to host one of Andi's childhood friends for dinner that night, so I spent most of Thursday running around like a chicken with its head chopped off, prepping dinner, catching up on laundry and packing for the weekend. After our dinner guests left, Andi and I cleaned up the house and finished packing for our trip. In a stroke of genius, Andi decided last minute to pick up the RV on Thursday afternoon vs. picking it up on our way out of town Friday morning. Good thing because we had absolutely no idea what to bring for a weekend on the road. I can't even imagine what Friday morning would have been like if we would have had to load up my car, then transfer it all into the RV at the rental site. Plus, we brought Chloe along with us and pets *technically* weren't allowed per the rental agreement, so that could've been awkward. So, more chicken-with-its-head-cut-off moments Thursday night as Andi and I literally unloaded half of our refrigerator and cupboards and transferred it to the RV. To top it off, a fuse blew somewhere between the RV rental place and our house, causing the water and sewer pumps to stop working. Andi called the RV company and they had to send an employee out to our house to fix it. We felt bad for the guy (he still had BBQ sauce on his shirt from dinner), but we couldn't very well begin our RV adventure with a broken motor home. It only took the guy a few minutes to fix the problem and we were back in business.

Early Friday morning, Andi and I were awoken around 3:00am by a huge thunderstorm blowing through the Twin Cities. Our power went out and we both bolted out of bed (okay, only one of us bolted out of bed while the other [pregnant] one waited for news) to check on the RV. It'd be just our luck a giant tree would land on the (very expensive) RV parked in our drive-way. Luckily, our house and yard were spared of any damage but many of our neighbors weren't so fortunate. The power was still out Friday morning as we packed up our last remaining toiletries, etc. for the weekend trip. We heard later the Cities were hit with another powerful thunderstorm Friday and a few phone calls from our neighbors told us the power was out again in our neighborhood. Andi and I were both thankful to be out of town for the weekend and not dealing with all that mess.

In a truly adventurous spirit, Andi pulled the RV of our drive-way Friday morning and literally stopped on our street because we never really decided where we were going for the weekend. After a quick discussion, we decided to drive North to Duluth, Minnesota for the morning, then cross over into Wisconsin with a goal of ending up on Madeline Island for the evening. As we were driving out of town, we witnessed just how devastating Thursday night's storm was throughout the city. There were trees and branches laying all over people's yards and sides of the road. We've very fortunate to have been spared.

Only the open road ahead ...

We arrived in Duluth around 10:30am Friday morning. With no real plan for our visit, we decided to walk around Canal Park for a bit, grab a bite to eat for lunch and take Tory to the aquarium. The weather took a drastic nose-dive in temperature and it was much cooler in Duluth than it had been in the Twin Cities. Lucky for us, we were traveling in an RV so Tory and I quickly changed into warmer clothes before setting off.

While in Duluth, I realized we've never really taken Tory on a vacation within Minnesota, so we decided to snap a few photos near the infamous Lake Superior lift bridge for her Places I've Been Book. Problem was, it was foggier than all get out and we could barely make out the bridge as it stood right in front of us. Also, Tory was literally trying to leap out of Andi's arms and into the quickly-flowing, icy current below. SCARY, kid.

Duluth's Lake Superior Lift Bridge

So, we decided to move over to this cute little statue instead. Welcome to Duluth, Tory! This is one of Daddy's very favorite places (Duluth, not the statue).

Tory chased the seagulls throughout the park while I hovered underneath a nearby building awning. (Have I mentioned how much I HATE BIRDS?) She was having the time of her life. Next, we grabbed a bite to eat at Lake Avenue Cafe a short walk away. This restaurant was FABULOUS. Andi ordered the Grass-Fed Beef Eye of Round and I had the Chicken Fettuccine (made with homemade noodles!). Tory devoured a grilled cheese and fruit. Definitely recommend. Our service was great, too.

Oh, that's just our child "cheers-ing" with a knife. No biggie.

Andi and I contemplated taking a walk along the shore, but the weather = crappy, so we opted for the Duluth Great Lakes Aquarium instead. Kinda disappointed with this stop. I thought Tory would go bananas over the big fish (sharks! eels! turtles!) but this aquarium was only comprised of fresh-water fish. B-O-RING. The coolest fish we saw was a sturgeon. Also, this place was heavy on education and a bit light on the "let's see some cool stuff" exhibits. I'm sure it's exciting if Great Lakes fish are your thing, but we were less than impressed.

Anyway, on with our adventure! By this time, it was 1:30pm and time for Tory's nap. She was asleep within minutes of leaving Duluth and slept the entire drive to Bayfield, Wisconsin. Andi and I enjoyed our drive west. It was unchartered territory for the both of us, so we took in the rural sights and talked the entire way there. (Our RV radio was broken the entire trip. Buzz kill.)

The closer we came to Bayfield, the foggier it became.

By the time we arrived, the temperature had dropped dramatically to a cool, rainy 45 degrees. Brrr. Andi and I were originally planning to spend a few days in Bayfield / Madeline Island around our anniversary next month because we'd heard so many wonderful things about the area. There's pick-your-own berry fields all over in the summertime and a quaint little downtown to browse shops and grab ice cream. Madeline Island boosts amazing views of Lake Superior and hiking trails galore. Last minute, we decided to venture here during our RV weekend instead of coming up next month for our anniversary because we thought Tory would enjoy all those places, too. Unfortunately for us, the town of Bayfield's main drag was under construction and a complete mess while we visited. Bad timing on our part, I suppose. We stopped by The Fish House to grab some smoked Lake Superior trout for dinner and decided to take the ferry out to Madeline Island shortly after we arrived as there wasn't much to do in town.

Madeline Island Ferry ride

On a sunny day, I think the Madeline Island Ferry would provide a pretty amazing view of Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands, but with the fog we couldn't see anything. The ferry ride itself was pretty uneventful. Nothing compared to the big production we experienced during our Vancouver, Canada trip a few years ago. We let Tory out of her car seat to "drive" us to our destination. See her there in the driver's seat?

Andi secured us a camping reservation at Big Bay State Park so we decided to head over there and get settled for the night. Our camping spot had power and water hook-ups so we were able to plug the RV in and reserve some of our motor home's limited resources. As soon as we settled in, we decided to take a walk around the park to check out our surroundings.

Our camping spot for the night

Big Bay State Park beach area - Lake Superior

An evening stroll through Big Bay State Park

Andi grilled fresh fish, brussel sprouts and potatoes for dinner while I whipped together some cheese, crackers and yogurt for Tory.

Next was the fun job of taking down the RV's kitchen table and setting up Tory's pack-n-play in its place. There were two beds in the RV (one in the back of the vehicle and a second that could be made up where the kitchen table was) but we felt Tory would be more comfortable (and safer) in her pack-n-play. As soon as it was up, however, it took up half our living space and left little room for Andi and I to move around the RV. Because it was so cold outside and we were exhausted anyway, we decided to hit the sack when Tory did around 8:00pm. There was a flat screen mounted above the back bed, but we couldn't get it to work so Andi and I laid in bed and read books for a bit before falling asleep. 

A fun, exhausting day on the open road. Day 1 was in the books with a distance traveled of 249 miles. (Give or take a few.)