After being cooped up at home for months due to Covid, we really wanted a change of scenery
Where: Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota
When: August 2–20, 2020
Who: Rabbi Alport, Dr. Alport, Yosef Meir (12), Devora Leah (5)
Why: After being cooped up at home for months due to Covid, we really wanted a change of scenery. We did not feel safe flying , due to the crowding in airports and on the plane, so we planned to take a big road trip. One major concern we had in planning the trip was what to do about Shabbos, since we always try to spend Shabbos in a Jewish community.
We didn’t want to visit big cities where we would normally spend Shabbosim on trips, and many small, out-of-town communities were closed to outsiders. Fortunately, Rabbi Michoel Feinstein at Chabad of Green Bay, Wisconsin and Rabbi Yonah Grossman at Chabad of Fargo, North Dakota graciously invited us for socially-distant Shabbos meals.
With Shabbos taken care of, we planned an itinerary that took us on an almost 5,000-mile round trip through Michigan’s UP (Upper Peninsula), the Wisconsin Dells, Minneapolis, and Theodore Roosevelt National Park, returning via Chicago and two national parks (Indiana Dunes and Cuyahoga Valley).
Mackinac Island — Our first stop on the trip was Mackinac Island (pronounced Mackinaw), a picturesque island at the entrance to Michigan’s UP. Besides the amazing views and relaxing island vibe, it is famous for its prohibition against cars. The only way to get around is by bike, on foot, or in a horse-drawn carriage like this one.
Tahquamenon Falls — Also located in the UP, Tahquamenon Falls is one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi, more than 200 feet across, with a drop of almost 50 feet. Four miles downstream are the lower falls, an area that we had fun exploring in a rented rowboat.
Oswald’s Bear Ranch — Not far from Tahquamenon Falls, we had lots of fun feeding bears with apples, from viewing platforms above their enclosures at Oswald’s Bear Ranch. We paid extra to get a family picture with an adorable baby bear.
Shalom Zoo — As we drove through Wisconsin, we couldn’t pass up a place called Shalom Zoo (even though it has no Jewish connection). Even better, there were golf carts for rent that we used to drive around the zoo and stay cool on a hot day. We also bought grain for the kids so they could feed the animals.
Mall of America — With almost 6 million square feet of space, the Mall of America has been the largest mall in North America since it was opened in 1992 by the Ghermezian family of Edmonton (who also own American Dream in New Jersey). Fortunately for us, the day before we arrived in town was the reopening of the indoor amusement park, which the kids really enjoyed, and shopping in the stores wasn’t bad either.
Laura Ingalls Wilder house — Laura Ingalls Wilder was born in 1867 in Pepin, Wisconsin, which is the setting for her first book, Little House in the Big Woods. Since Yosef Meir and Devora Leah are big fans of her books, they were very excited to see the cabin where Laura grew up.
Mississippi River Pontoon — One of our favorite activities on the trip was renting a pontoon to spend a day on the Mississippi River. We had a wonderful time docking and going ashore to swim in a private swimming hole near the river as majestic bald eagles flew overhead. We were initially worried that we’d get bored after just a few hours, but we ended up loving it so much that we were sad when our time was up and we had to return the boat.
Painted Rocks — One of Dr. Alport’s favorite activities on the trip was the cruise we took through Painted Rocks National Lakeshore, a stunning section of seashore that can only be viewed from the water. The highlight is the 15 miles of multicolored cliffs that tower up to 200 feet above the water.
Mississippi River Headwaters — On our way to Fargo, we stopped in Minnesota at Itasca State Park, the headwaters of the Mississippi River, where it starts its 2,300-mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico. Since it is known as “the mighty Mississippi,” we enjoyed walking “all the way” across the river, where it’s not so mighty at all — only a few feet deep and quite narrow.
George Floyd Square — On May 25, 2020, an African-American man named George Floyd was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis, sparking Black Lives Matter protests across the country. When we were in Minneapolis just a few months later, we took the opportunity to visit George Floyd Square to see the historic site and memorial.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park — Located in remote western North Dakota — more than 300 miles from Fargo — Theodore Roosevelt National Park was established in 1978. Its namesake, Theodore Roosevelt, fell in love with the region when he went there to hunt in 1883. Besides the beautiful scenery of the badlands, we enjoyed watching the numerous bison and adorable prairie dogs that inhabit the park.
Meet you next time!
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 885)
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