An update from John:
August arrived with an angry oven heat and a whirlwind of activity...
We were graciously invited up to Gamefair in the Minneapolis area by Dan with Hunt the North/UWC Challenge, and eagerly jumped at the opportunity! If you're from the southeast like we are, we didn't really have any prior knowledge of Gamefair or even duck hunting culture in Minnesota, but when we did a little research we were amazed at the numbers of duck hunters and the general passion for waterfowling in the upper Midwest.
A few weeks prior to the show, the awesome folks at D&H RV Center in Apex, NC called and had taken a Class C Motorhome in on trade, and they knew that we had been looking for a solid option for travel in the upcoming months (especially seeing as how we never get any sleep during duck season). We jumped at the opportunity provided and purchased the RV with the intention of me heading to Minnesota in it and using it instead of hotel rooms, etc.
Minnesota is definitely a world away from NC, and a straight 1,300 miles from 'the house.' I loaded down the trailer with Decoy Rafts, packed up the RV fridge with Trader Joe's Burritos and hot dogs..... and left a good 2.5 days before the show, giving myself ample time to prepare for traffic jams, road problems, etc. I went solo with the intention of picking up Nathan at the Airport in MN that weekend so he wouldn't have to burn too many 'vacation days' from work.
On the way up I stopped by a buddies' house in La Rue, Ohio...which was a great reunion with old friends. I camped in the grass of his picturesque farm, which is tucked right in the middle of the cornfields and prairie grasses of central Ohio. We walked to a nearby refuge/management area that evening and counted several hundred Teal already moving south. Seeing birds moving again is a definitive shot of adrenaline... and the joyful feeling of Summer's end is a universal one to all who have watched these creatures quietly usher in the Autumn months. After watching the fury of activity from the Teal, we headed back to a big homecooked, farmhouse meal and finished off the twilight hours by the campfire.
I left out of Ohio early the next morning, unsure of how far I'd get with the Chicago albatross looming in the distance. Once I made it through charming Gary, Indiana, I stayed south on I-80....avoiding the Chicago suburbs and then heading north through Rockford, IL and eventually into Wisconsin. That night saw the RV nestled up with some Big Rigs behind a BP in Mauston, Wisconsin.
If you've never made any sort of long passage solo, especially across the Midwest, I can't explain the mental exercise that it slowly becomes. The summertime sky in the Midwest is incredibly big and hollow, as compared to our humidity-soaked atmosphere and tree-lined roads down South. Being away from home and staring across miles of empty cornfields slowly becomes an intense mindgame. I found myself tackling existential quandaries as long as the roads in central Illinois. I can only imagine what the first settlers thought as they finally passed out of the eastern woods and reached the prairie and great plains ahead. The thought of being unable to see a grove of trees to use as a point of reference must have been a mind game only for those with the strongest mental fortitude. Anyway...
The two weekends of Gamefair went fantastic. The weather in Minnesota in August is absolutely perfect...no humidity and dropping into the 50s at night. The folks at Gamefair were even nicer, and it was refreshing to meet so many great folks who share common interests. We had so many great Outfitters stop by our booth and pick up Decoy Rafts for the coming season, and we are so stoked to see the different ways the Decoy Raft will give them an advantage in the field. Gamefair is a fantastic show and the fact that it is two weekends long is indicative of the passion for waterfowling that Minnesota has.
I had initially planned at staying at a campground somewhere in the Minneapolis area (since Gamefair wouldn't let me stay on the grounds), but after all of them were full....I was left with no choice but to bounce between Parking Lots and Truck Stops for two weeks, which proved moderately challenging. However, I'm pleased so say I made it the entire 14 days without plugging in once, dry camping for the entirety of the trip. Each day it seemed like I was fixing something on the RV in preparation for that night, whether it was a leaking generator, a faulty CO2 Detector, broken laptop, etc. RV travel is a non-linear exercise... it's almost as if you're some twisted modern day Hunter/Gatherer making preparations for the evening, in order to just wake up and do it again. An interesting rhythm of life and one that I started getting accustomed to by Week 2. Special thanks to Holiday Gas Station for graciously allowing me to empty the black and grey tanks and refill my water.
Minneapolis was beautiful, and during the week in between the two shows I made it down to the "5-8 Club" and had a "Juicy Lucy"....sounded shady when I was first referred there, but it turns out it really is amazing hamburger (Man Vs. Food did a great episode on it)....also made it to some great bookstores, record stores, Mall of America, the new Vikings stadium, etc. My sleeping arrangements consisted of generally being lulled to sleep by diesel motors...except for the one night I was violently pulled from sleep by 60 MPH winds, hail, and rain. I felt like I was going to wake-up in Oz for a moment but the storm quickly rolled east. On a side note, Minneapolis is the city of oversized Targets, Best Buys, and Gander Mountains....It seemed like I passed one everywhere I went....not to mention all the lakes. They weren't kidding about that 'Land of 10,000 Lakes' license plate. What a beautiful state with a lot of water in it.
So...After 14 days and more than 3,000 miles....I'm back in NC to celebrate my daughter's 3 year Birthday Party....then off to New York next week to meet with several big Outfitters on Long Island and Upstate NY. Stoked for cooler weather, brown marsh grass, football, and the migration.
Special Thanks to Dan, Brandon, Joe, and Neil with Hunt the North/UWC for all the hospitality...and to the Holiday in Mounds View for the fresh water!
More to Come in a Week or Two...