North American Bear Center in Ely, Minnesota

This is an amazing place!  We learned that black bears are not always black and learned more on various other misconceptions about black bears.  It made us stop and rethink what we thought we knew about black bears.

There are learning centers with pictures, videos and an hour long BBC movie presentation about the bears, the center and the research that was done by Lynne Rogers, PhD.  Dr. Rogers presents a more docile picture of the bears and focuses on the intelligence and misunderstandings about black bears to the general public.  It is obvious that he loves his work and his bears.

The bears reside on 2.5 acres of forest with food and water resources for them to naturally forage.  Their diet is subsidized by the center twice a day.  I asked what their diet was in those meals and it was a large portion of dried protein, fruits and nuts.

They have a gallery with a large viewing window and an outside upper level viewing deck which allows the bears to be in view on their natural surroundings.  They saunter in and out of the viewing garden to snack on rye grass, aspen leaves and to swim in the small pond.  They also respond to their names when called to snack time several times a day for the guests to get a good look at them.  Today they were treated with a large frozen Popsicle with berries and nuts.

There are several learning programs presented daily and a new ecology room with forest educational information on the animals and plants that live there.

The oldest male at 18 years is Ted.  He has his own webcam and can be seen at .  We took a guided tour to visit his den.  He has the run of the place in the mornings and Lucky, a now mature 8 year old male has the run of the place in the afternoon.  That way there are no arguments among the males for dominance.

All of the bears had wet noses, bright eyes,  shiny coats and appeared to be very happy bears.  All den or cages that we saw appeared clean and did not smell dirty or dungy.  Each male had a water tub to dip into for warm days to cool off, a safe dark place to nap, and foraging plants in their dens.

I liked the outside interaction of the bears with one another and I learned a lot inside the center.  I really liked playing the audio of the various noises that bears make and the definition of each noise.

This facility has few paid employees and is run with the help of many volunteers and the donations from fees, gift shop purchases and fund raisers.  It is a worthy cause, so please go visit this interesting jewel in the woods if you are ever in the area.

Eckbeck Campground, Minnesota, Bay Days and new batteries

Lake Superior Harbor in Duluth

Lake Superior Harbor in Duluth

We spent a week in Duluth doing the city stuff and then we discovered forest campgrounds!  The cities have their charm and many sites to see, and we partook of a few.  However it is still the city and we really prefer the more natural settings, but we needed the city to purchase add-on items for our simple solar system, (see last paragraph). Continue reading

We actually stayed at a Walmart parking lot

Our Walmart view in Las Cruces, New Mexico

Our Walmart view in Las Cruces, New Mexico

We actually found ourselves driving later than planned and needed to get off the road for a quick overnight while in route.  We had worn ourselves out at Escapades.

We learned our manners from our Boot Camp Instructors and did as we were told: We went in and asked permission before we  settled in, then we bought groceries.

The manager was so pleasant and gave us directions on where to park our rig.  This was a supercenter that was open 24 hours and in a very nice neighborhood.  It was a non-eventful night and we rested well, heading out early in the AM.

The view once daylight broke was a surprise.  We will continue to use caution and do our best to be safe and not to overstay our welcome.   We don’t plan to do this on a regular basis but in a pinch when RV  Parks are far apart and the day is running late, Walmart might be an option for a short overnight.

Our Day in Hannibal

Due to the rising level of the Mississippi River the flood gates on the river landing were closed.   You can see the water from the Mississippi river still coming in through the gates.  The residents along the river take this occasional rise in water as just a part of living near the river and they love this river!

The river walk may be closed, but Hannibal was open.  We strolled the downtown historical area shopping at the farmers marketplace and having lunch after visiting a couple of museums.

We toured the Mark Twain historical area which is where Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn lived and did mischief.  Phil even felt inspired to do a little fence white wash brushing.

Samuel Langhorn Clemens was born in Florida, Missouri and grew up in Hannibal, he is not the only Hannibal resident to become famous.  Some of the ones that I remember reading about are:

  • Jake Beckley, (“Old Eagle Eye” – baseball player on three major league teams and inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971) lived in Hannibal.
  • Margaret Tobin Brown, (“The Unsinkable Molly Brown”) was born in Hannibal in 1867 and survived the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. She was called Maggie not Molly during her lifetime.
  • Blanche Kelso Bruce, second Negro to hold the office of U.S. Senator) was a teacher in Hannibal.
  • Marie Rouff Byrum, Cast the first vote by a woman in the United States in a special election in Hannibal on August 31, 1920.
  • Carroll Beckwith, (portrait artist) was born in Hannibal in 1852.
  • Admiral Robert E. Coontz, (Commander of the United States Fleet in 1923) was born in Hannibal.
  • Cliff Edwards, (Actor/musician known as Ukelele Ike) was born in Hannibal. In Hollywood he appeared in many films and was the voice of Jiminy Cricket. I saw him with Roy Rogers as a child at the movies.
  • Jack Fascinato, (Arrranger/accompanist for Tennessee Ernie Ford) was Hannibal school orchestra director in the 1930’s. I loved “Sixteen Tons”.

There are many others, but these meant something to me and I had no idea they were from the small town of Hannibal.

Wet and Wild Missouri

We left St. Louis wanting to see more and do more, but we were tired of the rain.  Due to the flooding of the rivers that meet in the area, we had to re-route our travel plans.  We found three good roads northward that were closed due to flooding waters and finally headed up toward Mark Twain State Park on an in-land highway.

We pulled into the park last Monday planning on using our two coupons for free parking from our hosting time at Roaring River and found ourselves being invited to volunteer here for a week.  They have a camp host coming in, but until then, they are shorthanded.  We were ahead of schedule so had a few days to offer and since the rivers are at or above their banks, why not?

This is about 30 miles east of Hannibal, Missouri which is on my must-see list.  However, Hannibal was installing flood gates at the River Walk area.  Wow, it has continued to rain off and on and more on than off.  Rivers are rising and so is the Mark Twain Lake.  The swimming area and boat docks are closed. One night we even had a Tornado Warning.

The Park Staff and veteran Camp Hosts, Bev and Joe have been gracious and helpful while we get our feet on the ground for a short assistance stay.   Under their tutelage, hopefully we will be able to carry our own weight and be of some help in a busy place.  They are expecting the new host to arrive July 1st, so we will be exiting then.

During this week, we have seen deer daily with their little fawns scampering through the campground unafraid of us humans.  They aren’t acting as pets, but they do seem undaunted by our presence.  One needs to be cautious when driving at night or something bad can happen to a deer and one’s vehicle.  That is not a “win-win situation.

Deer leaving our area

Deer leaving our area







We were here long enough to get our snail mail forwarded and a little on-line shopping delivered.  Not a bad gig at all.  We like it here and hope to return someday.

It is a remote woodsy area, a nice size lake and home to Mark Twain’s Birthplace home near Florida, Missouri.  The best fishing seemed to be at the small Tom Sawyer Lake near the park office and museum.  The home has been moved about ½ mile for its’ original location and then a museum built over it.  Artwork, furnishings, and some original books by Mark Twain, aka Samuel Langhorn Clemens.  It is a small museum, free and nicely done.  I enjoyed the time spent there and learned more about an outspoken, politically minded and fascinatingly wonderful storyteller.

While in the area I was able to visit Florida and Paris, but missed Mexico, Missouri.

I love traveling full-time!