No Room in the Inn

Evan has always wanted to go on a road trip. I am much experienced in cross-country travel, having grown up in New Jersey with many road trips to the midwest to visit family. Once we even packed in the van and drove to Minnesota through the night for a big surprise the next morning! (It takes about 19 hours, btw). But I don't think I've ever headed out on a trip with no idea where I'd be laying my head at night. Ever since I've known Evan, he's expressed this wish, this yearning to jump in the car and see where the road takes you ...

Well, we definitely got a taste of that about three weekends ago when we were up North. I was shooting a wedding right on the shores of Lake Superior in Tofte, Minn. and Evan was along because he had a grad class for a few days the following week in Duluth. We actually only heard about the wedding two weeks prior, so we figured hotels would already be booked and we'd end up camping -- which I was thrilled about because I'm always in the mood to camp! We actually camped in Manitou-Crosby State Park (very near to Tofte) on our honeymoon four years ago, so were excited to re-explore that area.

We finished up at the wedding around 6pm and headed straight to the closest state park, just to learn that it was filled, as were all the other state parks in the area. But not to worry, they said. And sent us on our way with personalized maps and doodles explaining where we were sure to find an abundance of camp sites -- in the National Forest just up the road a bit. Well, just up the road was actually half an hour inland on the roughest gravel road I've ever driven on. But it was beautiful and we got to enjoy a gorgeous sunset as we bumped along the back country roads (in separate cars though, since Evan was staying a few days extra, remember). Finally we made it to the non-reservable National Forest campground but yes indeed, all sites were taken. We could not believe our bad luck.

 A few years ago we had some great luck come our way when the timeshare we were scheduled to stay at accidently gave our room to someone else ... so they sent us to their luxury homes right on the water instead. 

... We were due for some ill fate to come our way.

By this point we realized camping was not going to be in our deck of cards because it was already getting dark and with the backroad National Forest out of the picture, we doubted anything else would be available. So we were resigned to the fact we'd end up in a hotel instead. Oh well. But as we called around while driving south towards Duluth, we learned the hard truth: there was absolutely nothing available between Cloquet (about half an hour south of Duluth) and Grand Marais (way up north). We hopelessly even stopped at a few shady spots along 61 that didn't read no vacancy on their sign. 

But it was time we faced the truth: there was no room at the inn.

So what did we do? After sharing a salad at 11pm (we had purchased earlier that evening from the best place in Tofte: the Coho Cafe) in a Two Harbors gas station, we knew we needed to call it a night. We didn't want to drive too far out of the area because a) Evan was due back in Duluth at 8am Monday morning and b) we had been planning a day of hiking and sightseeing on Sunday. As we sat in the parking lot looking longingly at the AmericanInn next door, we got an idea. Let's just say we're beyond happy we purchased our new Prius the day before -- never was I more thankful to have a hatchback!

 It was kind of like camping ... only we were off the ground!

 I woke up to this, bright and early. Didn't realize we were parked next to a cemetery when we pulled in the night before.

 Seriously, who needs a traditional campsite? It was beautiful!

Well, maybe not in this direction. Yup, the back of the AmericInn parking lot. (We did get permission first!)

Not such a bad place to spend the night. AmericInn has a pretty good continental breakfasts! ; ) Shhhh!

 Our cozy bed. Skylight too!

 I love these little peep windows

 So maybe it wasn't quiiiite long enough for some people.

Happy camper!

The best part? Waking up to seagulls in the morning.

I did wake up numerous times throughout the night having to switch sides to save my hips (we neglected to put down camping pads, just blankets), but I just kept reminding myself that in the morning we could go hiking. 

We actually ventured into Two Harbors where a little craft fair was going on, went out to breakfast (where I accidently ordered the oatmeal made with heavy cream, not quite my cup o' tea!), and then explored some of the lesser-known trails near Gooseberry. We wanted to go further north, but being as we'd just driven that stretch yesterday, we weren't very eager to repeat it. The Gitche Gummi trail took us right to the cliffs on Lake Superior!

Up the coastline we could see the tip of the popular Gooseberry campsites (which were full the night before, grumble grumble). Earlier that day we had walked down to the pebble beach to put our feet in the water, along with a herd of kids, one of which attracted a leech and much squawking ensued. That's when we spied this lookout and wondered how we could get up there ... without scaling the cliff.

Our evening then took us back to Duluth where we checked out a new restaurant (well, new to us) Va Bene, strolled along Canal Park, and then went to Rise of the Planet of the Apes. That night was spent in a really old hotel in Superior Wisconsin .. but that's a story for another day.

Who knew authentic car-camping could be so much fun?!

Have any of you spent a night in the car, whether it was planned or your last resort? What tales do you have to share from your time on the road?  

Bates photo taken from here, No Room In the Inn photo taken from here, No Vacancy in the Trees photo taken from here

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