Category Archives: camping

Bonus Destination: The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota (Rolled by One Man)

Yet another of the destinations we want the bus to take us to is Darwin, Minnesota.  ‘But why?’ you might ask, never having heard of this significant location.  The answer, my friends, is that Darwin is the home of the Biggest Ball of Twine (Rolled by One Man).  Other places may vie for the ‘Biggest Ball’ title, but so far, Darwin’s holds the moral high ground by making it a single individual’s work (read more on the others here).

The enclosure that houses the ball.

The ball is 12 feet in diameter and weighs 17,400 pounds.  It took  Francis A. Johnson 29 years to complete, and he was apparently a stickler for turning the ball so that the windings would keep it circular (though it is reportedly sagging a bit since becoming a permanent exhibit).  The production of the ball was also apparently responsible for his death from accumulated twine dust.

Francis A. Johnson and his Twine Ball
Francis A. Johnson and his Twine Ball

And the Twine Ball Museum is open during the Twine Ball Day celebration, and by appointment (it also houses some baseball memorabilia).  That’s right, on the 2nd Saturday in August there’s a festival around the celebrated ball, which includes a Twine-K runn and the Minnesota Minn-e-Rods tractor pull, which takes place on Main Street where competitors find out who has the strongest lawn tractor (and you can check out their Facebook page – it doesn’t seem to get much traffic) .

All that said, Darwin (located about 60 miles almost due west of Minneapolis) isn’t too close to any of our other current destinations, though it could be a nice stop on our way out to the Badlands area and the Black Hills of South Dakota.  Luckily, there are a few places that look like viable overnight spots for the bus, like the Lakedale Campground, about five miles away, the Lake Ripley Campground about 10 miles away (though it’s a first-come place – they don’t take reservations), or the Cokato Lake RV Resort, about fourteen miles away.

And yes, the inspiration for this travel destination was Weird Al Yankovic’s 1989 song “The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota,” which if you haven’t seen it, is here for your listening enjoyment:

Destination: The Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick and Halifax, Nova Scotia

Another of the locations that we want to take the bus to is in New Brunswick, namely, the Bay of Fundy (around Irving Nature Park, near St. John).  And if we’re going that far, Halifax, Nova Scotia isn’t far away.

The Bay of Fundy has some of the greatest tidal change in the world!
The Bay of Fundy has some of the greatest tidal change in the world!

The Bay of Fundy is a cool place for people who can appreciate geology.  One of the awesome things about it is that it has some of the greatest tidal range in the world, spanning about 56 feet of change between high and low tides, which happen twice each every day.   (Which hit a difference of 71 feet in 1869 in a perfect storm of a tropical cyclone, low barometric pressure, and a spring tide.)  In addition to this, the bay area is also seated in a rift valley where most of Nova Scotia could have peeled away from North America if that pesky mid-Atlantic Ridge hadn’t meddled in the tectonic action.

Just like in school.  I'm talking about the Cobequid-Chedabucto fault at the top of the illustration (from
Just like in school. I’m talking about the Cobequid-Chedabucto fault at the top of the illustration (from

If you’re not big into geology, what you could take away from this is that a bunch of the rock layers in this area are igneous (volcanic), so they’re different from other areas of nearby Canada.  These rocks (and their differential rates of erosion) are one of the things that create the ‘flower pot’ rock formations people are walking and kayaking around in my first picture of the post.

Some of the cliffs around the Bay of Fundy.
Some of the cliffs around the Bay of Fundy.

It also created some really cool cliffs in the area.  The formation of the Bay and it’s high tides also creates ‘bores’ in some of the rivers that can actually reverse the direction of their flows as the tide comes in.  These ‘bores’ are places where a wave front makes it’s way up the river against the flow as the tide comes in.

The area just seems to beg for a canoe and some strong paddling arms.

But beyond (farther east) is Halifax, Nova Scotia.  It’s not quite as far east as we could reasonably take the bus on the continent (out near Sydney would be about it, unless we wanted to take the ferry out to Newfoundland and drive about there!).   But Halifax has some neat stuff, like the Alexander Keith’s brewery, which is one of the oldest breweries in Canada,

Citidel Hill (Fort George) in Halifax
Citidel Hill (Fort George) in Halifax

the Halifax Citadel (Fort George), a seven-pointed earthworked fort atop the hill that overlooks Halifax, and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, which seems to have a wealth of  information on Halifax and Nova Scotia’s nautical contributions and history and is also the oldest and largest Maritime Museum in Canada.

There’s a nice-looking campsite about 20 km away, the Woodhaven RV Park.  It looks to be about a 90 minute bike ride to the southern area of Halifax, but the Citadel has parking for buses and RVs, so it might be a reasonable thing to just park the bus there and sight-see.

Part of the other fun of this trip is the driving! The trip to St. John should take us about 13 hours (847 mi) at Google speeds, and probably about 14.25 or so bus speeds – if we go via the Thruway and other highways.  According to Google, if we skirted just south of the Adirondacks through Ticonderoga, NY and up to Burlington, VT and through Lancaster, NH and Augusta and Bangor, ME, it would only take us 15 hours (827 mi), and probably 16-17 hours at bus speed.

From St. John to Halifax is only about 4.5 hours, though it seems a circuitous and scenic route as it curves around the Bay of Fundy, the Minas Bay, and Cobequid Bay.  And just off the path, of course, is Prince Edward Island for just that many more tempting sights.

As you can see, this trip could turn into something long, and would need some careful planning for overnights of travel, parking, and fuel stops.  But this gives some nice bones to flesh out!







Destination: Provincetown, MA

The whole reason for having the bus and making it into an RV is to use it!  My wife used to go to Cape Cod for vacations as a girl, and thus, one of the places we want to go is:

The official site of Provincetown, MA
The official site of Provincetown, MA

Provincetown is on the far eastern ‘hook’ of  Massachusetts, forming Cape Cod Bay.

Cape Cod from all the way up in the air.

Being a relatively narrow, sandy area, there is tons of salt water around you, one way or another.  Provincetown is home to a number of historic sites, including the Pilgrim’s First Landing site

The Pilgrim Monument, before the town grew around it

and the Pilgrim Monument (at 252 feet tall, it is the tallest all-granite structure in the United States, and you can climb the stairs up!) and the nearby Race Point Light Station (which has two small buildings you can rent as cabins) and the  Highland Light Station (established in 1797!),   but is a thriving Arts community all on it’s own.

Highland Light Station

The area is supposed to be great for biking, the town having bike lanes and bike routes that connect with the bike trails in the Cape Cod National Seashore, so we’ll be trowing our bikes in the bus when we go.  (It will also make a lot more sense to bring the bikes to travel in the quaint LITTLE streets than to try and maneuver the bus there!)

Provincetown itself

For RV’s, there’s a nice looking place right to the north of Provincetown called the Dune’s Edge,  right on the edge of the Cape Cod National Seashore, and just down the road (before the Highland Light Station) is a place called the North of Highland Camping Area,  but neither of these have parking for anything bigger than 20′ or 30′, so our bus won’t fit. So just down a little farther is the Adventure Bound Camping Resorts, which are more densely packed than we might want, but will fit our bus.

There’s also the possibility of bringing the canoe.  There is a public launch right in Provincetown, the West End Boat Parking Lot/Boat Ramp, but from the Google Maps view, all the spaces look like single car spaces.  To the south, though, is the Wellfleet Pier Boat Ramp, which has parking for larger vehicles, and as far as I can see, seems to be free to park at.  This would give us some nice access to the inner cape, though some 20 miles of canoeing from Provincetown.  Still what we want to do is get out and explore and enjoy, so that’s fine.

Distance for us (from Google Maps): ~556 miles (shortest driving distance) / ~8 hours 30 minutes speed limit time (~9 hours 15minutes bus speed time)